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H*«OLO a Hi lltJHAKI 

PROVO. UlAH 



V 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2011 with funding from 
Brigham Young University 



http://www.archive.org/details/blithedaleromanc1852hawt 



SEC 27 13?^ 



THE 



BLITHEDALE EOMANCE. 



BY 



NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE 



BOSTON: 
TICKNOR, REED, AND FIELDS 

M DCCC LIT. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by 

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 

In the Clerk's Ofl&ce of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts. 



Stereotyped liv 

nOBART & ROBBINS, 

BOSTON. 



THE LIBRARY 

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY 
PROVO, VTAH 



PREPACE. 



In the ^'Blithedale" of this volume many read- 
ers will, probably, suspect a faint and not very faith- 
ful shadowing of Brook Farm, in Roxbury, which 
(now a little more than ten years ago) was occupied 
and cultivated by a company of socialists. The author 
does not wish to deny that he had this community in 
his mind, and that (having had the good fortune, for a 
time, to be personally connected with it) he has occa- 
sionally availed himself of his actual reminiscences, in 
the hope of giving a more life-like tint to the fancy- 
sketch in the following pages. He begs it to be 
understood, however, that he has considered the insti- 
tution itself as not less fairly the subject of fictitious 
handling than the imaginary personages whom he has 
introduced there. His whole treatment of the affair 
is altogether incidental to the main purpose of the 
romance ; nor does he put forward the slightest pre- 
tensions to illustrate a theory, or elicit a conclusion, 
favorable or otherwise, in respect to socialism.] 

In short, his present concern with the socialist 



IV PREFACE. 



community is merely to establish a theatre, a little 
removed from the highway of ordinary travel, where 
the creatures of his brain may play their phantasma- 
gorical antics, without exposing them to too close a 
comparison with the actual events of real lives. In the 
old countries, with which fiction has long been con- 
versant, a certain conventional privilege seems to be 
awarded to the romancer ; his work is not put exactly 
side by side w^ith nature ; and he is allowed a license 
with regard to every-day probability, in view of the 
improved effects which he is bound to produce thereby. 
Among ourselves, on the contrary, there is as yet no 
such Faery Land, so like the real world, that, in a 
suitable remoteness, one cannot well tell the difference, 
but with an atmosphere of strange enchantment, beheld 
through which the inhabitants have a propriety of their 
own. This atmosphere is what the American romancer 
needs. In its absence, the beings of imagination are 
compelled to show themselves in the same category as 
actually living mortals ; a necessity that generally 
renders the paint and pasteboard of their composition 
but too painfully discernible. With the idea of par- 
tially obviating this difficulty (the sense of which has 
always pressed very heavily upon him), the author 
has ventured to make free with his old and affection- 
ately remembered home at Brook Farm, as being 
certainly the most romantic episode of his own life, — 



PREFACE. T 

essentially a day-dreanij and yet a fact, — and thus 
offering an available foothold between fiction and real- 
ity. Furthermore, the scene was in good keeping 
with the personages whom he desired to introduce. 

These characters, he feels it right to say, are entire- 
ly fictitious. It w^ould, indeed (considering liow few 
amiable qualities he distributes among his imaginary 
progeny), be a most grievous wrong to his former 
excellent associates, ^vere the author to allow it to be 
supposed that he has been sketching any of their like- 
nesses. Had he attempted it, they would at least 
have recognized the touches of a friendly pencil. But 
he has done nothing of the kind. The self-concen- 
trated Philanthropist ; the high-spirited Woman, bruis- 
ing herself against the narrow limitations of her sex ; 
the Aveakly Maiden, whose tremulous nerves endow 
her with sibylline attributes ; the Minor Poet, begin- 
ning life with strenuous aspirations, ^vhich die out 
Avith his youthful fervor ; — all these might have been 
looked for at Bkook Farm, but, by some accident, 
never made their appearance there. 

The author cannot close his reference to this sub- 
ject, without expressing a most earnest wish that 
some one of the many cultivated and philosophic 
minds, w^iich took an interest in that enterprise, 
might now give the world its history. Ripley, with 
whom rests the honorable paternity of the institution, 



VI PREFACE. 

Dana, Dwight, Channing, Burton, Parker, for in- 
stance, — with others, whom he dares not name, 
because they veil themselves from the public eye, — 
among these is the ability to convey both the outward 
narrative and the inner truth and spirit of the whole 
affair, together with the lessons which those years of 
thought and toil must have elaborated, for the behoof 
of future experimentalists. Even the brilliant How- 
adji might find as rich a theme in his youthful remi- 
niscences of Bbook Farm, and a more novel one, — 
close at hand as it lies, — than those which he has 
since made so distant a pilgrimage to seek, in Syria, 
and along the current of the Nile. 

Concord (Mass) "May 1852 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

I. — Old Moodie . 9 

11. — Blithedale 14 

in. — A Knot of Dreamers 20 

rV. — The Supper-table 30 

V. — Until Bed-time 40 

VI. — Coverdale's Sick-chamber 48 

Vn. — The Convalescent 60 

Vm. — A Modern Arcadia 70 

IX. — Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla 83 

X. — A Visiter from Town 98 

XL — The Wood-path 107 

XII. — Coverdale's Hermitage 118 

XIII. — Zenobia's Legend 127 

XrV.— Eliot's Pulpit 140 

XV. — A Crisis 153 

XVI. — Leave-takings 163 

XVn. — The Hotel 172 

XVm. — The Boarding-house 181 

XIX. — Zenobia's Drawing-room 189 

XX.— They Vanish 198 



y^II CONTENTS. 

XXI. — An Old Acquaintance • • 

227 



PAGE 

.204 

XXn. — Fauntleroy 213 



XXIII.— A Village-hall 

ERS 

248 



XXIV. — The Masqtjeraders 238 



XXV. — The Three together 

lLE 

266 



XXVE. — Zenobia and Coverdale 258 



XXVn. — Midnight 

XXVni. — Blithedale Pasture 27 < 

XXIX. — Miles Coverdale's Confession '^^^ 



THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 



I. 

OLD MOODIE. 



The evening before my departure for Blithedale, I was 
returning to my bachelor apartments, after attending the 
wonderful exhibition of the Veiled Lady, when an elderly 
man, of rather shabby appearance, met me in an obscure 
part of the street. 

" Mr. Coverdale," said he, softly, " can I speak with 
you a moment ? " 

As I have casually alluded to the Veiled Lady, it may 
not be amiss to mention, for the benefit of such of my 
readers as are unacquainted with her now forgotten 
celebrity, that she was a phenomenon in the mesmeric 
line ; one of the earliest that had indicated the birth of a 
new science, or the revival of an old humbug. Since 
those times, her sisterhood have grown too numerous to 
attract much individual notice ; nor, in fact, has any one 
of them ever come before the public under such skilfully 
contrived circumstances of stage-effect as those which 
at once m.ystified and illuminated the remarkable per- 
formances of the lady in question. Now-a-days, in the 
manageiT?,'j:st of his "subject," "clairvoyant," or "me- 
dium," the exhibitor affects the simplicity and openness 



10 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

of scientific experiment ; and even if he profess to tread 
a step or two across the boundaries of the spiritual world, 
yet carries with him the laws of our actual life, and 
extends them over his preternatural conquests. Twelve 
or fifteen years ago, on the contrary, all the arts of mys- 
terious arrangement, of picturesque disposition, and artis- 
tically contrasted light and shade, were made available, 
in order to set the apparent miracle in the strongest 
attitude of opposition to ordinary facts. In the case of 
the Veiled Lady, moreover, the interest of the spectator 
was further wrought up by the enigma of her identity, 
and an absurd rumor (probably set afloat by the exhib- 
itor, and at one time very prevalent), that a beautiful 
young lady, of family and fortune, was enshrouded 
within the misty drapery of the veil. It was white, 
with somewhat of a subdued silver sheen, like the sunny 
side of a cloud ; and, falling over the wearer from head 
to foot, was supposed to insulate her from the material 
world, from time and space, and to endow her with many 
of the privileges of a disembodied spirit. 

Her pretensions, however, whether miraculous or oth- 
erwise, have little to do with the present narrative; 
except, indeed, that I had propounded, for the Veiled 
Lady's prophetic solution, a query as to the success of 
our Blithedale enterprise. The response, by the by, was of 
the true Sibylline stamp, — nonsensical in its first aspect, 
yet, on closer study, unfolding a variety of interpreta- 
tions, one of which has certainly accorded with the 
event. I was turning over this riddle in my mind, and 
trying to catch its slippery purport by the tail, when the 
old man above mentioned interrupted me. 

" Mr. Coverdale ! — Mr. Coverdale ! " said he, repeat- 



OLD MOODIE. 11 

ing my name twice, in order to make up for the hesitat- 
ing and ineffectual way in which he uttered it. " I ask 
your pardon, sir, but I hear you are going to Blithedale 
to-morrow." 

I knew the pale, elderly face, with the red-tipt nose, 
and the patch over one eye; and likewise saw something 
characteristic in the old fellow's way of standing under 
the ardh of a gate, only revealing enough of himself to 
make me recognize him as an acquaintance. He was a 
very shy personage, this Mr. Moodie ; and the trait was 
the more singular, as his mode of getting his bread neces- 
sarily brought him into the stir and hubbub of the world 
more than the generality of men. 

" Yes, Mr. Moodie," I answered, wondering what 
interest he could take in the fact, " it is my intention to 
go to Blithedale to-morrow. Can I be of any service to 
you before my departure ? " 

" If you pleased, Mr. Coverdale," said he, "you might 
do me a very great favor." 

" A very great one ? " repeated I, in a tone that must 
have expressed but little alacrity of beneficence, although 
I was ready to do the old man any amount of kindness 
involving no special trouble to myself. " A very great 
favor, do you say ? My time is brief, Mr. Moodie, and 
I have a good many preparations to make. But be good 
enough to tell me what you wish." 

" Ah, sir," replied Old Moodie, " I don't quite like to 
do that; and, on further thoughts, Mr. Coverdale, per- 
haps I had better apply to some older gentleman, or to 
some lady, if you would have the kindness to make me 
known to one, who may happen to be going to Blithedale. 
You are a young man, sir ! " 



12 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

" Does that fact lessen my availability for your pur- 
pose ? " asked I. " However, if an older man will suit 
you better, there is Mr. HoUingsworth, who has three 
or four years the advantage of me in age, and is a much 
more solid character, and a philanthropist to boot. I am 
only a poet, and, so the critics tell me, no great affair at 
that ! But what can this business be, Mr. Moodie ? It 
begins to interest me ; especially since your hint that a 
lady's influence might be found desirable. Come, I am 
really anxious to be of service to you." 

But the old fellow, in his civil and demure manner, 
was both freakish and obstinate ; and he had now taken 
some notion or other into his head that made him hesi- 
tate in his former design. 

" I wonder, sir," said he, " whether you know a lady 
whom they call Zenobia ? " 

" Not personally," I answ^ered, " although I expect 
that pleasure to-morrow, as she has got the start of the 
rest of us, and is already a resident at Blithedale. But 
have you a literary turn, Mr. Moodie ? or have you 
taken up the advocacy of women's rights ? or what else 
can have interested you in this lady ? Zenobia, by the 
by, as I suppose you know, is merely her public name ; 
a sort of mask in which she comes before the world, 
retaining all the privileges of privacy, — a contrivance, 
in short, like the white drapery of the Veiled Lady, only 
a little more transparent. But it is late. Will you tell 
me what I can do for you ? " 

" Please to excuse me to-night, Mr. Coverdale," said 
Moodie. " You are very kind ; but I am afraid I have 
troubled you, when, after all, there may be no need. 
Perhaps, with your good leave, I will come to your lodg- 



OLD MOODIE. 13 

ings- to-morrow morning, before you set out for Blithe- 
dale. I wish you a good-night, sir, and beg pardon for 
stopping you." 

And so he slipt away ; and, as he did not show him- 
self the next morning, it was only through subsequent 
events that I ever arrived at a plausible conjecture 
as to what his business could have been. Arriving at 
my room, I threw a lump of cannel coal upon the grate, 
lighted a cigar, and spent an hour in musings of every 
hue, from th% brightest to the most sombre ; being, in 
truth, not so very confident as at some former periods 
that this final step, which would mix me up irrevocably 
with the Blithedale affair, was the wisest that could pos- 
sibly be taken. It was nothing short of midnight when 
I went to bed, after drinking a glass of particularly 
fine sherry, on which I used to pride myself, in those 
days. It was the very last bottle; and I finished it, 
with a friend, the next forenoon, before setting out for 
Blithedale. 



II. 

BLITHEDALE. 

There can hardly remain for me (who am really 
getting to be a frosty bachelor, with another white hair, 
every week or so, in my moustache), thefe can hardly 
flicker up again so cheery a blaze upon the hearth, as 
that which I remember, the next day, at Blithedale. It 
was a wood-fire, in the parlor of an old farm-house, on 
an April afternoon, but with the fitful gusts of a win- 
try snow-storm roaring in the chimney. Vividly does 
that fireside re-create itself, as I rake away the ashes 
from the embers in my memory, and blow them up with 
a sigh, for lack of more inspiring breath. Vividly, for 
an instant, but, anon, with the dimmest gleam, and with 
just as little fervency for my heart as for my finger- 
ends ! The stanch oaken logs were long ago burnt 
out. Their genial glow must be represented, if at all, 
by the merest phosphoric glimmer, like that which 
exudes, rather than shines, from damp fragments of 
decayed trees, deluding the benighted wanderer through 
a forest. Around such chill mockery of a fire some 
few of us might sit on the withered leaves, spreading 
out each a palm towards the imaginary warmth, and 
talk over our exploded scheme for beginning the life of 
Paradise anew. 

Paradise, indeed ! Nobody else in the world, I am 
bold to affirm, — nobody, at least, in our bleak little 



BLITHE DALE. 15 

world of New England, — had dreamed of Paradise 
that day, except as the pole suggests the tropic. Nor, 
with such materials as were at hand, could the most 
skilful architect have constructed any better imitation of 
Eve's bower than might be seen in the snow-hut of an 
Esquimaux. But we made a summer of it, in spite of 
the wild drifts. 

It was an April day, as already hinted, and well towards 
the middle of the month. When morning dawned 
upon me, in town, its temperature was mild enough to 
be pronounced even balmy, by a lodger, like myself, 
in one of the midmost houses of a brick block, — each 
house partaking of the warmth of all the rest, besides 
the sultriness of its individual furnace-heat. But, 
towards noon, there had come snow, driven along the 
street by a north-easterly blast, and whitening the roofs 
and side-walks with a business-like perseverance that 
would have done credit to our severest January tempest. 
It set about its task apparently as much in earnest as 
if it had been guaranteed from a thaw for months to 
come. The greater, surely, was my heroism, when, puff- 
ing out a final whiff of cigar-smoke, I quitted my cosey 
pair of bachelor-rooms, — with a good fire burning in the 
grate, and a closet right at hand, where there was still a 
bottle or two in the champagne-basket, and a residuum 
of claret in a box, — quitted, I say, these comfortable 
quarters, and plunged into the heart of the pitiless snow- 
storm, in quest of a better life. 

The better life ! Possibly, it would hardly look so, 
now; it is enough if it looked so then. The greatest 
obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may 
not be going to prove one's self a fool; the truest heroism 



16 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

is, to resist the doubt ; and the profoundest wisdom, to 
know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be 
obeyed. 

Yet, after all, let us acknowledge it wiser, if not more 
sagacious, to follow out one's day-dream to its natural con- 
summation, although, if the vision have been worth the 
having, it is certain never to be consummated otherwise 
than by a failure. And what of that ? Its airiest frag- 
ments, impalpable as they may be, will possess a value 
that lurks not in the most ponderous realities of any 
practicable scheme. They are not the rubbish of the 
mind. Whatever else I may repent of, therefore, let it 
be reckoned neither among my sins nor follies that I 
once had faith and force enough to form generous hopes 
of the world's destiny, — yes ! — and to do what in me 
lay for their accomplishment; even to the extent of 
quitting a warm fireside, flinging away a freshly-lighted 
cigar, and travelling far beyond the strike of city clocks, 
through a drifting snow-storm. 

There were four of us who rode together through the 
storm; and Rollings worth, who had agreed to be of the 
number, was accidentally delayed, and set forth at a later 
hour alone. As we threaded the streets, I remember 
how the buildings on either side seemed to press too 
closely upon us, insomuch that our mighty hearts found 
barely room enough to throb between them. The snow- 
fall, too, looked inexpressibly dreary (I had almost 
called it dingy), coming down through an atmosphere 
of city smoke, and alighting on the side-walk only to be 
moulded into the impress of somebody's patched boot or 
over-shoe. Thus the track of an old conventionalism 
was visible on what was freshest from the sky. But, 



BLITHE DALE. 17 

when we left the pavements, and our muffled hoof- 
tramps beat upon a desolate extent of country road, and 
were effaced by the unfettered blast as soon as stamped, 
then there was better air to breathe. Air that had 
not been breathed once and again ! air that had not 
been spoken into words of falsehood, formality and 
error, like all the air of the dusky city ! 

" How pleasant it is ! " remarked I, while the snow- 
flakes flew into my mouth the moment it was opened. 
" How very mild and balmy is this country air ! " 

" Ah, Coverdale, don't laugh at what little enthusiasm 
you have left! " said one of my companions. *'I main- 
tain that this nitrous atmosphere is really exhilarating ; 
and, at any rate, we can never call ourselves regen- 
erated men till a February north-easter shall be as grate- 
ful to us as the softest breeze of June." 

So we all of us took courage, riding fleetly and mer- 
rily along, by stone-fences that were half-buried in the 
wave-like drifts ; and through patches of woodland, 
where the tree-trunks opposed a snow-encrusted side 
towards the north-east; and within ken of deserted 
villas, with no foot-prints in their avenues ; and past 
scattered dwellings, whence puffed the smoke of country 
fires, strongly impregnated with the pungent aroma of 
burning peat. Sometimes, encountering a traveller, w^e 
shouted a friendly greeting; and he, unmuffling his ears 
to the bluster and the snow-spray, and listening eagerly, 
appeared to think our courtesy worth less than the 
trouble which it cost him. The churl ! He understood 
the shrill whistle of the blast, but had no intelligence 
for our blithe tones of brotherhood. This lack of faith 
in our cordial sympathy, on the traveller's part, was one 
2 



18 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

amonof the innumerable tokens how difficult a task we 

o . ^ __ __ _ _ __ 

had in hand, for the reformation of the world. We rode 
on, however, with still unflagging spirits, and made such 
good companionship with the tempest that, at our jour- 
ney's end, we professed ourselves almost loth to bid the 
rude blusterer good-by. But, to own the truth, I was 
little better than an icicle, and began to be suspicious 
that I had caught a fearful cold. 

And now we were seated by the brisk fireside of the 
old farm-house, — the same fire that glimmers so faintly 
among my reminiscences at the beginning of this chap- 
ter. There we sat, with the snow mehing out of our 
hair and beards, and our faces all a-blaze, what with the 
past inclemency and present warmth. It was, indeed, a 
right good fire that we found awaiting us, built up of 
great, rough logs, and knotty limbs, and splintered frag- 
ments, of an oak-tree, such as farmers are wont to keep 
for their own hearths, — since these crooked and unman- 
ageable boughs could never be measured into merchanta- 
ble cords for the market. A family of the old Pilgrims 
might have swung their kettle over precisely such a fire 
as this, only, no doubt, a bigger one; and, contrasting it 
with my coal-grate, I felt so much the more that we had 
transported ourselves a world-wide distance from the 
system of society that shackled us at breakfast-time. 

Good, comfortable Mrs. Foster (the wife of stout Silas 
Foster, who was to manage the farm, at a fair stipend, 
and be our tutor in the art of husbandry) bade us a 
hearty welcome. At her back — a back of generous 
breadth — appeared two young women, smiling most 
hospitably, but looking rather awkward withal, as not 
well knowing what was to be their position in our new 



BLITHE DALE. 19 

arranorement of the world. Wo shook hands aflection- 
ately, all round, and congratulated ourselves that the 
blessed state of brotherhood and sisterhood, at which we 
aimed, might fairly be dated from this moment. Our 
greetings were hardly concluded, when the door opened, 
and Zenobia, — whom I had never before seen, important 
as was her place in our enterprise, — Zenobia entered 
the parlor. 

This (as the reader, if at all acquainted with our lit- 
erary biography, need scarcely be told) was not her real 
name. She had assumed it, in the first instance, as her 
magazine signature; and, as it accorded well with some- 
thing imperial which her friends attributed to this lady's 
figure and deportment, they, half-laughingly, adopted it 
in their familiar intercourse with her. She took the 
appellation in good part, and even encouraged its con- 
stant use ; which, in fact, was thus far appropriate, that 
our Zenobia — however humble looked her new philoso- 
phy — had as much native pride as any queen would 
have known what to do with. 



III. 

A KNOT OF DREAMERS. 

Zenobia bade us welcome, in a fine, frank, mellow 
voice, and gave each of us her hand, which was very 
soft and warm. She had something appropriate, I recol- 
lect, to say to every individual ; and what she said to 
myself was this : 

" I have long wished to know you, Mr. Coverdale, and 
to thank you for your beautiful poetry, some of which I 
have learned by heart ; or, rather, it has stolen into my 
memory, without my exercising any choice or volition 
about the matter. Of course — permit me to say — you 
do not think of relinquishing an occupation in which 
you have done yourself so much credit. I would almost 
rather give you up as an associate, than that the world 
should lose one of its true poets ! " 

" Ah, no ; there will not be the slightest danger of 
that, especially after this inestimable praise from Zeno- 
bia," said I, smiling, and blushing, no doubt, with excess 
of pleasure. ^' I hope, on the contrary, now to produce 
something that shall really deserve to be called poetry, 
— true, strong, natural, and sweet, as is the life which 
we are going to lead, — something that shall have the 
notes of wild birds twittering through it, or a strain like 
the wind-anthems in the woods, as the case may be." 

" Is it irksome to you to hear your own verses sung ? " 
asked Zenobia, with a gracious smile. " If so, I am 



A KNOT OF DREAMERS. 21 

very sorry, for you will certainly hear me singing them, 
sometimes, in the summer evenings." 

" Of all things," answered I, " that is what will delight 
me most." 

While this passed, and while she spoke to my com- 
panions, I was taking note of Zenobia's aspect ; and it 
impressed itself on me so distinctly, that I can now sum- 
mon her up, like a ghost, a little wanner than the life, 
but otherwise identical with it. She was dressed as 
simply as possible, in an American print (I think the 
dry goods people call it so), but with a silken kerchief, 
between which and her gown there was one glimpse of 
a white shoulder. It struck me as a great piece of good 
fortune that there should be just that glimpse. Her hair, 
which was dark, glossy, and of singular abundance, was 
put up rather soberly and primly, without curls, or other 
ornament, except a single flower. It was an exotic, of 
rare beauty, and as fresh as if the hot-house gardener 
had just dipt it from the stem. That flower has struck 
deep root into my memory. I can both see it and smell 
it, at this moment. So brilliant, so rare, so costly, as it 
must have been, and yet enduring only for a day, it was 
more indicative of the pride and pomp which had a lux- 
uriant growth in Zenobia's character than if a great 
diamond had sparkled among her hair. 

Her hand, though very soft, was larger than most women 
would like to have, or than they could afford to have, 
though not a w^hit too large in proportion with the spa- 
cious plan of Zenobia's entire development. It did one 
good to see a fine intellect (as hers really was, although 
its natural tendency lay in another direction than 
towards literature) so fitly cased. She was, indeed, an 



22 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

admirable figure of a woman, just on the hither verge 
of her richest maturity, with a combination of features 
which it is safe to call remarkably beautiful, even if some 
fastidious persons might pronounce them a little defi- 
cient in softness and delicacy. But we find enough of 
those attributes everywhere. Preferable — by w^ay of 
variety, at least — was Zenobia's bloom, health, and 
vigor, w^hich she possessed in such overflow that a man 
might well have fallen in love with her for their sake 
only. In her quiet moods, she seemed rather indolent ; 
but when really in earnest, particularly if there were a 
spice of bitter feeling, she grew all alive, to her finger- 
tips. 

" I am the first comer," Zenobia went on to say, while 
her smile beamed warmth upon us all; " so I take the 
part of hostess, for to-day, and welcome you as if to my 
own fireside. You shall be my guests, too, at supper. 
To-morrow, if you please, we will be brethren and sis- 
ters, and begin our new life from daybreak." 

"Have we our various parts assigned?" asked some 
one. 

" O, we of the softer sex," responded Zenobia, with 
her mellow, almost broad laugh, — most delectable to 
hear, but not in the least like an ordinary woman's 
laugh, — " we women (there are four of us here already) 
will take the domestic and indoor part of the business, as 
a matter of course. To bake, to boil, to roast, to fry, to 
stew, — to wash, and iron, and scrub, and sweep, — and, 
at our idler intervals, to repose ourselves on knitting and 
sewing, — these, I suppose, must be feminine occupa- 
tions, for the present. By and by, perhaps, when our 
individual adaptations begin to develop themselves, it 



A KNOT OF DREABIERS. 23 

may be that some of us who wear the petticoat will go 
a-field, and leave the weaker brethren to take our places 
in the kitchen." 

" What a pity," I remarked, " that the kitchen, and 
the house-work generally, cannot be left out of our sys- 
tem altogether! fit is odd enough that the kind of 
labor which falls to the lot of women is just that which 
chiefly distinguishes artificial life — the life of degene- 
rated mortals — from the life of Paradise.^ Eve had no 
dinner-pot, and no clothes to mend, and no washing- 
day." 

" I am afraid," said Zenobia, with mirth gleaming out 
of her eyes, " we shall find some difficulty in adopting 
the Paradisiacal system for at least a month to come. 
Look at that snow-drift sweeping past the window ! 
Are there any figs ripe, do you think ? Have the pine- 
apples been gathered, to-day ? Would you like a bread- 
fruit, or a cocoa-nut ? Shall I run out and pluck you 
some roses ? No, no, Mr. Coverdale ; the only flower 
hereabouts is the one in my hair, which I got out of a 
green-house this morning. As for the garb of Eden," 
added she, shivering playfully, " I shall not assume it 
till after May-day ! " 

Assuredly, Zenobia could not have intended it ; — the 
fault must have been entirely in my imagination. But 
these last words, together with something in her man- 
ner, irresistibly brought up a picture of that fine, per- 
fectly developed figure, in Eve's earliest garment. Her 
free, careless, generous modes of expression, often had 
this effect, of creating images, which, though pure, are 
hardly felt to be quite decorous when born of a thought 
that passes between man and woman. I imputed it, at 



24 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

that time, to Zenobia's noble courage, conscious of no 
harm, and scorning the petty restraints which take the 
life and color out of other women's conversation. There 
was another peculiarity about her. We seldom meet 
with women, now-a-days, and in this country, who 
impress us as being women at all ; — their sex fades 
away, and goes for nothing, in ordinary intercourse. 
Not so with Zenobia. One felt an influence breathing 
out of her such as we might suppose to come from Eve, 
when she was just made, and her Creator brought her 
to Adam, saying, " Behold ! here is a woman ! " Not 
that I would convey the idea of especial gentleness, 
grace, modesty and shyness, but of a certain warm and 
rich characteristic, which seems, for the most part, to 
have been refined away out of the feminine system. 

" And now," continued Zenobia, " I must go and help 
get supper. Do you think you can be content, instead 
of figs, pine-apples, and all the other delicacies of Adam's 
supper-table, with tea and toast, and a certain modest 
supply of ham and tongue, which, with the instinct of a 
housewife, I brought hither in a basket? And there 
shall be bread and milk, too, if the innocence of your 
taste demands it." 

The whole sisterhood now went about their domestic 
avocations, utterly declining our offers to assist, further 
than by bringing wood, for the kitchen-fire, from a huge 
pile in the back yard. After heaping up more than a 
sufficient quantity, we returned to the sitting-room, drew 
our chairs close to the hearth, and began to talk over 
our prospects. Soon, with a tremendous stamping in 
the entry, appeared Silas Foster, lank, stalwart, uncouth, 
and grisly-bearded. He came from foddering the cattle 



A KNOT OF DREAMERS. 25 

in the" barn, and from the field, where he had been 
ploughing, until the depth of the snow rendered it im- 
possible to draw a furrow. He greeted us in pretty 
much the same tone as if he were speaking to his oxen, 
took a quid from his iron tobacco-box, pulled off his wet 
cow-hide boots, and sat down before the fire in his 
stocking-feet. The steam arose from his soaked gar- 
ments, so that the stout yeoman looked vaporous and 
spectre-like. 

" Well, folks," remarked Silas, " you '11 be wishing 
yourselves back to town again, if this weather holds." 

And, true enough, there was a look of gloom, as the 
twilight fell silently and sadly out of the sky, its gray 
or sable flakes intermingling themselves with the fast 
descending snow. The storm, in its evening aspect, 
was decidedly dreary. It seemed to have arisen for our 
especial behoof, — a symbol of the cold, desolate, dis- 
trustful phantoms that invariably haunt the mind, on the 
eve of adventurous enterprises, to warn us back within 
the boundaries of ordinary life. 

But our courage did not quail. We would not allow 
ourselves to be depressed by the snow-drift trailing past 
the window, any more than if it had been the sigh of a 
summer wind among rustling boughs. There have been 
few brighter seasons for us than that. If ever men 
might lawfully dream awake, and give utterance to their 
wildest visions without dread of laughter or scorn on 
the part of the audience, — yes, and speak of earthly 
happiness, for themselves and mankind, as an object to 
be hopefully striven for, and probably attained, — we, 
who made that little semi-circle round the blazing fire, 
were those very men. We had left the rusty iron 



26 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

frame-work of society behind us ; we had broken through 
many hindrances that are powerful enough to keep most 
people on the weary tread-mill of the established system, 
even while they feel its irksomeness almost as intolera- 
ble as we did. We had stept down from the pulpit ; we 
had flung aside the pen ; we had shut up the ledger ; we 
had thrown off that sweet, bewitching, enervating indo- 
lence, which is better, after all, than most of the enjoy- 
ments within mortal grasp. It was our purpose — a 
generous one, certairdy, and absurd, no doubt, in full 
proportion with its generosity — to give xtp whatever we 
had heretofore attained, forjhe sake of showing mankind 
the example of a life governed by Other than the false 
and cruel principles on which human society has all 
along been based. 

And, first of all, we had divorced ourselves from 
pride, and were striving to supply its place with familiar 
love. We meant to lessen the laboring man's great 
burthen of toil, by performing our due share of it at the 
cost of our own thews and sinews. We sought our 
profit by mutual aid, instead of wresting it by the 
strong hand from an enemy, or filching it craftily 
from those less shrewd than ourselves (if, indeed, there 
were any such in New England), or winning it by self- 
ish competition with a neighbor; in one or another of 
which fashions every son of woman both perpetrates and 
suflfers his share of the common evil, whether he chooses 
it or no. And, as the basis of our institution, we pur- 
posed to offer up the earnest toil of our bodies, as a 
prayer no less than an effort for the advancement of our 
race. 

Therefore, if we built splendid castles (phalansteries, 



A KNOT OF DREAMERS. 27 

perhaps they might be more fitly called), and pictured 
beautiful scenes, among the fervid coals of the hearth 
around which we were clustering, and if all went to rack 
with the crumbling embers, and have never since arisen 
out of the ashes, let us take to ourselves no shame. In 
my own behalf, I rejoice that I could once think better 
of the world's improvability than it deserved. It is a 
mistake into which men seldom fall twice in a lifetime ; 
or, if so, the rarer and higher is the nature that can thus 
magnanimously persist in error. 

Stout Silas Foster mingled little in our conversation ; 
but when he did speak, it was very much to some 
practical purpose. For instance : 

" Which man among you," quoth he, " is the best 
judge of swine ? Some of us must go to the next 
Brighton fair, and buy half a dozen pigs." 

Pigs ! G ood heavens ! had we come out from among 
the swinish multitude for this ? And, again, in refer- 
ence to some discussion about raising early vegetables 
for the market : 

" We shall never make any hand at market-garden- 
ing," said Silas Foster, " unless the women folks will 
undertake to do all the weeding. We haven't team 
enough for that and the regular farm-work, reckoning 
three of you city folks as worth one common field-hand. 
No, no ; I tell you, we should have to get up a little 
too early in the morning, to compete with the market- 
gardeners round Boston." 

It struck me as rather odd, that one of the first ques- 
tions raised, after our separation from the greedy, strug- 
gling, self-seeking world, should relate to the possibility 
of getting the advantage over the outside barbarians in 



28 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

their own field of labor. But, to own the truth, I very 
soon became sensible that, as regarded society at large, 
we stood in a position of new hostility, rather than new 
brotherhood. Nor could this fail to be the case, in some 
degree, until the bigger and better half of society should 
range itself on our side. Constituting so pitiful a 
minority as now, we were inevitably estranged from the 
rest of mankind in pretty fair proportion with the strict- 
ness of our mutual bond among ourselves. 

This dawning idea, however, was driven back into 
my inner consciousness by the entrance of Zenobia. 
She came with the welcome intelligence that supper 
was on the table. Looking at herself in the glass, and 
perceiving that her one magnificent flower had grown 
rather languid (probably by being exposed to the fer- 
vency of the kitchen fire), she flung it on the floor, as 
unconcernedly as a village girl would throw away a 
faded violet. The action seemed proper to her charac- 
ter, although, methought, it would still more have befitted 
the bounteous niture of this beautiful woman to scatter 
fresh flowers from her hand, and to revive faded ones by 
her touch. Nevertheless, it was a singular but irresisti- 
ble effect; the presence of Zenobia caused our heroic 
enterprise to show like an illusion, a masquerade, a 
pastoral, a counterfeit Arcadia, in which we grown-up 
men and women were making a play-day of the years 
that were given us to live in. I tried to analyze this 
impression, but not with much success. 

" It really vexes me," observed Zenobia, as we left the 
room, " that Mr. Hollingsworth should be such a laggard. 
I should not have thought him at all the sort of person 
to be turned back by a puff of contrary wind, or a few 
snow-flakes drifting into his face." 



A KNOT OF DREAMERS. 29 

"Do you know Hollingsworth personally?" I inquired. 

"No; only as an auditor — auditress, I mean — of 
some of his lectures," said she. " What a voice he 
has ! and what a man he is ! Yet not so much an 
intellectual man, I should say, as a great heart; at 
least, he moved me more deeply than I think myself 
capable of being moved, except by the stroke of a true, 
strong heart against my own. It is a sad pity that he 
should have devoted his glorious powers to such a 
grimy, unbeautiful and positively hopeless object as 
this reformation of criminals, about which he makes 
himself and his wretchedly small audiences so very 
miserable. To tell you a secret, I never could tolerate 
a philanthropist before. Could you?" 

" By no means," I answered ; "neither can I now." 

" They are, indeed, an odiously disagreeable set of 
mortals," continued Zenobia. " I should like Mr. Hol- 
lingsworth a great deal better, if the philanthropy had 
been left out. At all events, as a mere matter of taste, 
I wish he would let the bad people alone, and try to 
benefit those who are not already past his help. Do 
you suppose he will be content to spend his life, or even 
a few months of it, among tolerably virtuous and com- 
fortable individuals, like ourselves?" 

" Upon my word, I doubt it," said I. " If we wish to 
keep him w^ith us, we must systematically commit, at 
least, one crime apiece ! Mere peccadilloes will not sat- 
isfy him." 

Zenobia turned, sidelong, a strange kind of a glance 
upon me ; but, before I could make out what it meant, 
we had entered the kitchen, where, in accordance with 
the rustic simplicity of our new life, the supper-table 
was spread. 



IV. 

THE SUPPER-TABLE. 

The pleasant fire-light ! I must still keep harping 
on it. 

The kitchen-hearth had an old-fashioned breadth, 
depth and spaciousness, far within which lay what 
seemed the butt of a good-sized oak-tree, with the moist- 
ure bubbling merrily out of both ends. It was now 
half an hour beyond dusk; The blaze from an armful 
of substantial sticks, rendered more combustible by 
brush-wood and pine, flickered powerfully on the smoke- 
blackened walls, and so cheered our spirits that we 
cared not what inclemency might rage and roar on the 
other side of our illuminated windows. A yet sultrier 
warmth was bestowed by a goodly quantity of peat, 
which was crumbling to white ashes among the burning 
brands, and incensed the kitchen with its not ungrateful 
fragrance. The exuberance of this household fire 
would alone have sufficed to bespeak us no true farm- 
ers ; for the New England yeoman, if he have the mis- 
fortune to dwell within practicable distance of a wood- 
market, is as niggardly of each stick as if it were a bar 
of California gold. 

But it was fortunate for us, on that wintry eve of our 
untried life, to enjoy the warm and radiant luxury of a 
somewhat too abundant fire. If it served no other pur- 
pose, it made the men look so full of youth, warm blood, 



THE SUPPER-TABLE. 31 

and hope, and the women — §uch of them, at least, as were 
anywise convertible by its magic — so very beautiful, that 
I would cheerfully have spent my last dollar to prolong 
the blaze. As for Zenobia, there was a glow in her 
cheeks that made me think of Pandora, fresh from Vul- 
can's workshop, and full of the celestial warmth by dint 
of which he had tempered and moulded her. 

" Take your places, my dear friends all," cried she ; 
" seat yourselves without ceremony, and you shall be 
made happy with such tea as not many of the world's 
working-people, except yourselves, will find in their cups 
to-night. After this one supper, you may drink butter- 
milk, if you please. To-night we will quaff this nectar, 
which, I assure you, could not be bought with gold." 

We all sat down, — grisly Silas Foster, his rotund 
helpmate, and the two bouncing handmaidens, included, 
— and looked at one another in a friendly but rather 
awkward way. It was the first practical trial of our 
theories of equal brotherhood and sisterhood ; and we 
people of superior cultivation and refinement (for as such, 
I presume, we unhesitatingly reckoned ourselves) felt as 
if something were already accomplished towards the mil- 
lennium of love. The truth is, however, that the labor- 
ing-oar was with our unpolished companions ; it being 
far easier to condescend than to accept of condescension. 
Neither did I refrain from questioning, in secret, 
whether some of us — and Zenobia among the rest — 
would so quietly have taken our places among these 
good people, save for the cherished consciousness that it 
was not by necessity, but choice. Though we saw fit to 
drink our tea out of earthen cups to-night, and in 
earthen company, it was at our own option to use pic- 



32 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

tured porcelain and handle ^ilver forks again to-morrow. 
This same salvo, as to the power of regaining our former 
position, contributed much, I fear, to the equanimity 
with which we subsequently bore many of the hard- 
ships and humiliations of a life of toil. If ever I have 
deserved (which has not often been the case, and, I think, 
never), but if ever I did deserve to be soundly cuffed by 
a fellow-mortal, for secretly putting weight upon some 
imaginary social advantage, it must have been while I 
was striving to prove myself ostentatiously his equal, 
and no more. It was while I sat beside him on his cob- 
bler's bench, or clinked my hoe against his own in the 
corn-field, or broke the same crust of bread, my earth- 
grimed hand to his, at our noon-tide lunch. The 
poor, proud man should look at both sides of sympathy 
like this. 

The silence which followed upon our sitting down to 
table grew rather oppressive ; indeed, it was hardly 
broken by a word, during the first round of Zenobia's 
fragrant tea. 

" I hope," said I, at last, " that our blazing windows 
will be visible a great way off. There is nothing so 
pleasant and encouraging to a solitary traveller, on. a 
stormy night, as a flood of fire-light seen amid the 
gloom. These ruddy window-panes cannot fail to cheer 
the hearts of all that look at them. Are they not warm 
and bright with the beacon-fire which we have kindled 
for humanity?" 

" The blaze of that brush-wood will only last a 
minute or two longer," observed Silas Foster; but 
whether he meant to insinuate that our moral illumina- 
tion would have as brief a term, I cannot say. 



THE SUPPER-TABLE. 33 

" Meantime," said Zenobia, " it may serve to guide 
some wayfarer to a shelter." 

And, just as she said this, there came a knock at the 
house-door. 

" There is one of the world's wayfarers," said I. 

"Ay, ay, just so! "quoth Silas Foster. "Our fire- 
light will draw stragglers, just as a candle draws dor- 
bugs, on a summer night." 

Whether to enjoy a dramatic suspense, or that we 
were selfishly contrasting our own comfort with the 
chill and dreary situation of the unknown person at the 
threshold, or that some of us city-folk felt a little 
startled at the knock which came so unseasonably, 
through night and storm, to the door of the lonely farm- 
house, — so it happened, that nobody, for an instant or 
two, arose to answer the summons. Pretty soon, there 
came another knock. The first had been moderately 
loud; the second was smitten so forcibly that the 
knuckles of the applicant must have left their mark in 
the door-panel. 

" He knocks as if he had a right to come in," said 
Zenobia, laughing. "And what are we thinking of? It 
must be Mr. Hollingsworth ! *' 

Hereupon, I went to the door, unbolted, and flung it 
wide open. There, sure enough, stood Hollingsworth, 
his shaggy great-coat all covered with snow, so that he 
looked quite as much like a polar bear as a modern 
philanthropist. 

" Sluggish hospitality this ! " said he, in those deep 

tones of his, which seemed to come out of a chest as 

capacious as a barrel. "It would have served you 

right if I had lain down and spent the night on the door- 

3 



34 ■ THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

step, just for the sake of putting you to shame. But 
here is a guest who will need a warmer and softer bed." 

And, stepping back to the wagon in which he had jour- 
neyed hither, Hollingsworth received into his arms and 
deposited on the door-step a figure enveloped in a cloak. 
It was evidently a woman; or, rather, — judging from 
the ease with which he lifted her, and the little space 
which she seemed to fill in his arms, — a slim and 
unsubstantial girl. As she showed some hesitation 
about entering the door, Hollingsworth, with his usual 
directness and lack of ceremony, urged her forward, not 
merely within the entry, but into the warm and strongly- 
lighted kitchen. 

" Who is this ? " whispered I, remaining behind with 
him while he was taking off his great-coat. 

" Who ? Really, I don't know," answered Hollings- 
worth, looking at me with some surprise. "It is a young 
person who belongs here, however ; and, no doubt, she 
has been expected. Zenobia, or some of the women- 
folks, can tell you all about it." 

" I think not," said I, glancing towards the new comer 
and the other occupants of the kitchen. " Nobody 
seems to welcome her. I should hardly judge that she 
was an expected guest." 

"Well, well," said Hollingsworth, quietly. "We '11 
make it right." 

The stranger, or whatever she were, remained stand- 
ing precisely on that spot of the kitchen floor to which 
Hollingsworth's kindly hand had impelled her. The 
cloak falling partly off, she was seen to be a very young 
woman, dressed in a poor but decent gown, made high 
in the neck, and without any regard to fashion or smart- 



THE SUPPER-TABLE. 35 

ness. Her brown hair fell down from beneath a hood, 
not in curls, but with only a slight wave ; her face was 
of a wan, almost sickly hue, betokening habitual seclu- 
sion from the sun and free atmosphere, like a flower- 
shrub that had done its best to blossom in too scanty 
light. To complete the pitiableness of her aspect, she 
shivered, either with cold, or fear, or nervous excitement, 
so that you might have beheld her shadow vibrating on 
the fire-lighted wall. In short, there has seldom been 
seen so depressed and sad a figure as this young girl's ; 
and it was hardly possible to help being angry with her, 
from mere despair of doing anything for her comfort. 
The fantasy occurred to me that she was some desolate 
kind of a creature, doomed to wander about in snow- 
storms ; and that, though the ruddiness of our window- 
panes had tempted her into a human dwelling, she 
would not remain long enough to melt the icicles out of 
her hair. 

Another conjecture likewise came into my mind. 
Eecollecting Hollingsworth's sphere of philanthropic 
action, I deemed it possible that he might have brought 
one of his guilty patients, to be wrought upon, and 
restored to spiritual health, by the pure influences which 
our mode of life would create. 

As yet, the girl had not stirred. She stood near the 
door, fixing a pair of large, brown, melancholy eyes upon 
Zenobia, — only upon Zenobia ! — she evidently saw 
nothing else in the room, save that bright, fair, rosy, 
beautiful woman. It was the strangest look I ever wit- 
nessed ; long a mystery to me, and forever a memory. 
Once she seemed about to move forward and greet her, 
— I know not with what warmth, or with what words ; 



36 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

— but, finally, instead of doing so, she drooped down 
upon her knees, clasped her hands, and gazed piteously 
into Zenobia's face. Meeting no kindly reception, her 
head fell on her bosom. 

I never thoroughly forgave Zenobia for her conduct 
on this occasion. But women are always more cautious 
in their casual hospitalities than men. 

"What does the girl mean?" cried she, in rather a 
sharp tone. " Is she crazy ? Has she no tongue ? 'V 

And here Hollingsworth stepped forward. 

" No wonder if the poor child's tongue is frozen in her 
mouth," said he, — and I think he positively frowned at 
Zenobia. " The very heart will be frozen in her bosom, 
unless you women can warm it, among you, with the 
warmth that ought to be in your own ! " 

Hollings worth's appearance was very striking at this 
moment. He was then about thirty years old, but looked 
several years older, with his great shaggy head, his 
heavy brow, his dark complexion, his abundant beard, 
and the rude strength with which his features seemed to 
have been hammered out of iron, rather than chiselled 
or moulded from any finer or softer material. His 
figure was not tall, but massive and brawny, and well 
befitting his original occupation, which — as the reader 
probably knows — was that of a blacksmith. As for 
external polish, or mere courtesy of manner, he never 
possessed more than a tolerably educated bear ; although, 
in his gentler moods, there was a tenderness in his voice, 
eyes, mouth, in his gesture, and in every indescribable 
manifestation, which few men could resist, and no 
woman. But he now looked stern and reproachful ; and 
it was with that inauspicious meaning in his glance 



THE SUPPER-TABLE. 37 

that Hollingsworth first met Zenobia's eyes, and began 
his influence upon her life. 

To my surprise, Zenobia — of whose haughty spirit I 
had been told so many examples — absolutely changed 
color, and seemed mortified and confused. 

*' You do not quite do me justice, Mr. Hollingsworth," 
said she, almost humbly. " I am willing to be kind to 
the poor girl. Is she a protegee of yours ? What can I 
do for her ? " 

" Have you anything to ask of this lady ?" said Hol- 
lingsworth, kindly, to the girl. " I remember you 
mentioned her name before we left town." 

" Only that she will shelter me," replied the girl, 
tremulously. " Only that she will let me be always 
near her." 

" Well, indeed," exclaimed Zenobia, recovering her- 
self, and laughing, " this is an adventure, and well 
worthy to be the first incident in our life of love and 
free-heartedness ! But I accept it, for the present, with- 
out further question, — only," added she, "it would be a 
convenience if we knew your name." 

" Priscilla," said the girl ; and it appeared to me that 
she hesitated whether to add anything more, and decided 
in the negative. " Pray do not ask me my other name, 
— at least, not yet, — if you will be so kind to a forlorn 
creature." 

Priscilla ! — Priscilla ! I repeated the name to myself, 
three or four times ; and, in that little space, this quaint 
and prim cognomen had so amalgamated itself with my 
idea of the girl, that it seemed as if no other name could 
have adhered to her for a moment. Heretofore, the poor 
thing had not shed any tears ; but now that she found 



38 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

herself received, and at least temporarily established, the 
big drops began to ooze out from beneath her eyelids, as 
if she were full of them. Perhaps it showed the iron 
substance of my heart, that I could not help smiling at 
this odd scene of unknown and unaccountable calamity, 
into which our cheerful party had been entrapped, with- 
out the liberty of choosing whether to sympathize or no. 
Hollingsworth's behavior w^as certainly a great deal 
more creditable than mine. 

" Let us not pry further into her secrets," he said to 
Zenobia and the rest of us, apart, — and his dark, shaggy 
face looked really beautiful with its expression of 
thoughtful benevolence. " Let us conclude that Provi- 
dence has sent her to us, as the first fruits of the world, 
which we have undertaken to make happier than we find 
it. Let us warm her poor, shivering body with this 
good fire, and her poor, shivering heart with our best 
kindness. Let us feed her, and make her one of us. 
As we do by this friendless girl, so shall we prosper. 
And, in good time, whatever is desirable for us to know 
will be melted out of her, as inevitably as those tears 
which we see now." 

" At least," remarked I, " you may tell us how and 
where you met with her." 

*' An old man brought her to my lodgings," answered 
Hollingsworth, " and begged me to convey her to Blithe- 
dale, where — so I understood him — she had friends ; 
and this is positively all I know about the matter." » 

Grim Silas Foster, all this while, had been busy at the 
supper-table, pouring out his own tea, and gulping it 
down with no more sense of its exquisiteness than if it 
were a decoction of catnip ; helping himself to pieces of 



THE SUPPER-TABLE. 39 

dipt toast on the flat of his knife-blade, and dropping 
half of it on the table-cloth ; using the same serviceable 
implement to cut slice after slice of ham ; perpetrating 
terrible enormities with the butter-plate; and, in all 
other respects, behaving less like a civilized Christian 
than the worst kind of an ogre. Being by this time 
fully gorged, he crowned his amiable exploits with a 
draught from the water pitcher, and then favored us 
with his opinion about the business in hand. And, cer- 
tainly, though they proceeded out of an unwiped mouth, 
his expressions did him honor. 

" Give the girl a hot cup of tea, and a thick slice of 
this first-rate bacon," said Silas, like a sensible man as 
he was. " That 's what she wants. Let her stay with 
us as long as she likes, and help in the kitchen, and 
take the cow-breath at milking-time ; and, in a week or 
two, she '11 begin to look like a creature of this world." 

So we sat down again to supper, and Priscilla along 
with us. 



UNTIL BED-TIME. 

Silas Foster, by the time we concluded our meal, 
had stript off his coat, and planted himself on a low chair 
by the kitchen fire, with a lapstone, a hammer, a piece 
of sole-leather, and some waxed ends, in ordeB to cobble 
an old pair of cow-hide boots ; he being, in his own 
phrase, " something of a dab " (whatever degree of skill 
that may imply) at the shoemaking business. We 
heard the tap of his hammer, at intervals, for the rest 
of the evening. The remainder of the party adjourned 
to the sitting-room. Good Mrs. Foster took her knit- 
ting-work, and soon fell fast asleep, still keeping her 
needles in brisk movement, and, to the best of my ob- 
servation, absolutely footing a stocking out of the texture 
of a dream. And a very substantial stocking it seemed 
to be. One of the two handmaidens hemmed a towel, 
and the other appeared to be making a ruffle, for her 
Sunday's wear, out of a little bit of embroidered mus- 
lin, which Zenobia had probably given her. 

It was curious to observe how trustingly, and yet how 
timidly, our poor Priscilia betook herself into the shadow 
of Zenobia's protection. She sat beside her on a stool, 
looking up, every now and then, with an expression of 
humble delight, at her new friend's beauty. A brilliant 
woman is often an object of the devoted admiration — 
it might almost be termed worship, or idolatry — of some 



UNTIL BED- TIME. 41 

young girl, who perhaps beholds the cynosure only at an 
awful distance, and has as little hope of personal inter- 
course as of climbing among the stars of heaven. We 
men are too gross to comprehend it. Even a woman, 
of mature age, despises or laughs at such a passion. 
There occurred to me no mode of accounting for Pris- 
cilla's behavior, except by supposing that she had read 
some of Zenobia's stories (as such literature goes every- 
where), or her tracts in defence of the sex, and had come 
hither with the one purpose of being her slave. There 
is nothing parallel to this, I believe, — nothing so fool- 
ishly disinterested, and hardly anything so beautiful, — 
in the masculine nature, at whatever epoch of life ; or, 
if there be, a fine and rare development of character 
might reasonably be looked for from the youth who 
should prove himself capable of such self-forgetful affec- 
tion. 

Zenobia happening to change her seat, I took the 
opportunity, in an under tone, to suggest some such 
notion as the above. 

f^ Since you see the young woman in so poetical a 
light," replied she, in the same tone, " you had better 
turn the affair into a ballad. It is a grand subject, and 
worthy of supernatural machinery. The storm, the 
startling knock at the door, the entrance of the sable 
knight Hollingsworth and this shadowy snow-maiden, 
who, precisely at the stroke of midnight, shall melt away 
at my feet in a pool of ice-cold water, and give me my 
death with a pair of wet slippersU And when the verses 
are written, and polished quite to your mind, I will favor 
you with my idea as to what the girl really is." 



42 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" Pray let me have it now," said I ; "it shall be woven 
into the ballad." 

" She is neither more nor less," answered Zenobia, 
'* than a seamstress from the city ; and she has probably 
^ no more transcendental purpose than to do my miscella- 
neous sewing, for I suppose she will hardly expect to 
make my dresses." 

" How can you decide upon her so easily ? " I in- 
quired. 

*' 0, we women judge one another by tokens that 
escape the obtuseness of masculine perceptions," said 
Zenobia. " There is no proof which you would be 
likely to appreciate, except the needle-marks on the tip 
of her fore-finger. Then, my supposition perfectly 
accounts for her paleness, her nervousness, and her 
wretched fragility. Poor thing I She has been stifled 
with the heat of a salamander-stove, in a small, close 
room, and has drunk coffee, and fed upon dough-nuts, 
raisins, candy, and all such trash, till she is scarcely half 
alive ; and so, as she has hardly any physique, a poet, 
like Mr. Miles Coverdale, may be allowed to think her 
spiritual." 

" Look at her now ! " whispered I. 

Priscilla was gazing towards us, with an inexpressible 
sorrow in her wan face, and great tears running down 
her cheeks. It was difficult to resist the impression that, 
cautiously as we had lowered our voices, she must have 
overheard and been wounded by Zenobia's scornful 
estimate of her character and purposes. 

" What ears the girl must have ! " whispered Zenobia, 
with a look of vexation, partly comic, and partly real. 
" I will confess to you that I cannot quite make her out. 



UNTIL BED-TIME. 43 

However, I am positively not an ill-natured person, un- 
less when very grievously provoked ; and as you, and 
especially Mr. HoUingsworth, take so mucli interest in 
this odd creature, — and as she knocks, with a very 
slight tap, against my own heart, likewise, — why, I 
mean to let her in. From this moment, I will be rea- 
sonably kind to her. There is no pleasure in torment- 
ing a person of one's own sex, even if she do favor one 
with a little more love than one can conveniently dis- 
pose of: — and that, let me say, Mr. Coverdale, is the 
most troublesome offence you can offer to a woman." 

"Thank you," said I, smiling; "I don't mean to be 
guilty of it." 

She went towards Priscilla, took her hand, and passed 
her own rosy finger-tips, with a pretty, caressing move- 
ment, over the girl's hair. The touch had a magical 
effect. So vivid a look of joy flushed up beneath those 
fingers, that it seemed as if the sad and wan Priscilla 
had been snatched away, and another kind of creature 
substituted in her place. This one caress, bestowed vol- 
untarily by Zenobia, was evidently received as a pledge 
of all that the stranger sought from her, whatever the 
unuttered boon might be. From that instant, too, she 
melted in quietly amongst us, and was no longer a for- 
eign element. Though always an object of peculiar 
interest, a riddle, and a theme of frequent discussion, 
her tenure at Blithedale was thenceforth fixed. We no 
more thought of questioning it, than if Priscilla had been 
recognized as a domestic sprite, who had haunted the 
rustic fireside, of old, before we had ever been warmed 
by its blaze. 

She now produced, out of a work-bag that she had 



i^ 



44 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

with her, some little wooden instruments (what they are 
called, I never knew), and proceeded to knit, or net, an 
article which ultimately took the shape of a silk purse. 
As the work went on, I remembered to have seen just 
such purses before ; indeed, I was the possessor of one. 
Their peculiar excellence, besides the great delicacy and 
beauty of the manufacture, lay in the almost impossibil- 
ity that any uninitiated person should discover the aper- 
ture ; although, to a practised touch, they w^ould open as 
wide as charity or prodigality might wish. I wondered 
if it were not a symbol of Priscilla's own mystery. 

Notwithstanding the new confidence with which Zeno- 
bia had inspired her, our guest showed herself disqui- 
eted by the storm. When the strong puffs of wind spat- 
tered the snow against the windows, and made the oaken 
frame of the farm-house creak, she looked at us appre- 
hensively, as if to inquire whether these tempestuous 
outbreaks did not betoken some unusual mischief in the 
shrieking blast. She had been bred up, no doubt, in 
some close nook, some inauspiciously sheltered court of 
the city, where the uttermost rage of a tempest, though 
it might scatter down the slates of the roof into the 
bricked area, could not shake the casement of her little 
room. The sense of vast, undefined space, pressing 
from the outside agai'nst the black panes of our uncur- 
tained windows, was fearful to the poor girl, heretofore 
accustomed to the narrowness of human limits, with the 
lamps of neighboring tenements glimmering across the 
street. The house probably seemed to her adrift on the 
great ocean of the night. A little parallelogram of sky 
was all that she had hitherto known of nature, so that 
she felt the awfulness that really exists in its limitless 



UNTIL BED-TIME. 45 

extent. Once, while the blast was bellowing, she caught 
hold of Zenobia's robe, with precisely the air of one who 
hears her own name spoken- at a distance, but is unut- 
terably reluctant to obey the call. 

We spent rather an incommunicative evening. Hol- 
lingsworth hardly said a word, unless when repeatedly 
and pertinaciously addressed. Then, indeed, he would 
glare upon us from the thick shrubbery of his medita- 
tions like a tiger out of a jungle, make the briefest reply 
possible, and betake himself back into the solitude of his 
heart and mind. The poor fellow had contracted this 
ungracious habit from the intensity with w^hich he con- 
templated his own ideas, and the infrequent sympathy 
which they met w^ith from his auditors, — a circumstance 
that seemed only to strengthen the implicit confidence 
that he awarded to them. ; His heart, I imagine, was 
never really interested in our socialist scheme, but was 
forever busy with his strange, and, as most people thought 
it, impracticable plan, for the reformation of criminals 
through an appeal to their higher instincts. Much as I 
liked Hollingsworth, it cost me many a groan to tolerate 
him on this point. He ought to have commenced his 
investigation of the subject by perpetrating some huge 
sin in his proper person, and examining the condition of 
his higher instincts afterwards. 

The rest of us formed ourselves into a committee for 
providing our infant community with an appropriate 
name, — a matter of greatly more difficulty than the 
uninitiated reader would suppose. Blithedale was nei- 
ther good nor bad. We should have resumed the old 
Indian name of the premises, had it possessed the oil-and- 
honey flow which the aborigines were so often happy in 



46 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

communicating to their local appellations ; but it chanced 
to be a harsh, ill-connected, and interminable word, which 
seemed to fill the mouth with a mixture of very stiff clay 
and very crumbly pebbles. Zenobia suggested *' Sunny 
Glimpse," as expressive of a vista into a better system of 
society. This we turned over and over, for a while, 
acknowledging its prettiness, but concluded it to be rather 
too fine and sentimental a name (a fault inevitable by 
literary ladies, in such attempts) for sun-burnt men to 
work under. I ventured to whisper *' Utopia," which, 
however, was unanimously scouted down, and the pro- 
poser very harshly maltreated, as if he had intended a 
latent satire. Some were for calling our institution 
" The Oasis," in view of its being the one green spot in 
the moral sand-waste of the world ; but others insisted 
on a proviso for reconsidering the matter at a twelve- 
month's end, when a final decision might be had, 
whether to name it " The Oasis," or Sahara. So, at 
last, finding it impracticable to hammer out anything 
better, we resolved that the spot should still be Blithe- 
dale, as being of good augury enough. 

The evening wore on, and the outer solitude looked 
in upon us through the windows, gloomy, wild and 
vague, like another state of existence, close beside the 
little sphere of warmth and light in which we were the 
prattlers and bustlers of a moment. By and by, the 
door was opened by Silas Foster, with a cotton handker- 
chief about his head, and a tallow candle in his hand. 

" Take my advice, brother farmers," said he, with a 
great, broad, bottomless yawn, " and get to bed as soon 
as you can. I shall sound the horn at daybreak ; and 



UNTIL BED-TIME. 47 

we 've got the cattle to fodder, and nine cows to milk, 
and a dozen other things to do, before breakfast." 

Thus ended the first evening at Blithedale. I went 
shivering to my fireless chamber, with the miserable con- 
sciousness (which had been growing upon me for several 
hours past) that I had caught a tremendous cold, and 
should probably awaken, at the blast of the horn, a fit 
^subject for a hospital. The night proved a feverish one. 
During the greater part of it, I was in that vilest of 
states when a fixed idea remains in the mind, like the 
nail in Sisera's brain, while innumerable other ideas go 
and come, and flutter to and fro, combining constant 
transition with intolerable sameness. Had I made a 
record of that night's half-waking dreams, it is my belief 
that it would have anticipated several of the chief inci- 
dents of this narrative, including a dim shadow of its 
catastrophe. Starting up in bed, at length, I saw that 
the storm was past, and the moon was shining on the 
snowy landscape, which looked like a lifeless copy of the 
world in marble. 

From the bank of the distant river, which was shim- 
mering in the moonlight, came the black shadow of the 
only cloud in heaven, driven swiftly by the wind, and 
passing over meadow and hillock, vanishing amid tufts 
of leafless trees, but reappearing on the hither side, until 
it swept across our door-step. 

How cold an Arcadia was this ! 



VI. 

CO^rERDALE'S SICK-CHAMBER. 

The horn sounded at daybreak, as Silas Foster had* 
forewarned us, harsh, uproarious, inexorably drawn out, 
and as sleep-dispelling as if this hard-hearted old yeo- 
man had got hold of the trump of doom. 

On all sides I could hear the creaking of the bed- 
steads, as the brethren of Blithedale started from slum- 
ber, and thrust themselves into their habiliments, all 
awry, no doubt, in their haste to begin the reformation 
of the world. Zenobia put her head into the entry, and 
besought Silas Foster to cease his clamor, and to be kind 
enough to leave an armful of firewood and a pail of water 
at her chamber-door. Of the whole household, — un- 
less, indeed, it were Priscilla, for whose habits, in this 
particular, I cannot vouch, — of all our apostolic society, 
whose mission was to bless mankind, Hollingsworth, I 
apprehend, was the only one who began the enterprise 
with prayer. My sleeping-room being but thinly par- 
titioned from his, the solemn murmur of his voice made 
its way to my ears, compelling me to be an auditor of his 
awful privacy with the Creator. It affected me with a 
deep reverence for Hollingsworth, which no familiarity 
then existing, or that afterwards grew more intimate 
between us, — no, nor my subsequent perception of his 
own great errors, — ever quite effaced. It is so rare, in 
these times, to meet with a man of prayerful habits 



coverdale's sick-chamber. 49 

(except, of course, in the pulpit), that such an one is 
decidedly marked out by a light of transfiguration, shed 
upon him in the divine interview from v^hich he passes 
into his daily life. 

As for me, I lay abed ; and if I said my prayers, it 
was backward, cursing my day as bitterly as patient Job 
himself. The truth was, the hot-house warmth of a 
town-residence, and the luxurious life in which I in- 
dulged myself, had taken much of the pith out of my 
physical system ; and the wintry blast of the preceding 
day, together with the general chill of our airy old farm- 
house, had got fairly into my heart and the marrow of 
my bones. In this predicament, I seriously wished — 
selfish as it may appear — that the reformation of 
society had been postponed about half a century, or, at 
all events, to such a date as should have put my inter- 
meddling with it entirely out of the question. 

What, in the name of common sense, had I to do 
with any better society than I had always lived in ? It 
had satisfied me well enough. My pleasant bachelor- 
parlor, sunny and shadowy, curtained and carpeted, with 
the bed-chamber adjoining ; my centre-table, strewn with 
books and periodicals ; my writing-desk, with a half- 
finished poem, in a stanza of my own contrivance ; my 
morning lounge at the reading-room or picture-gallery ; 
my noontide walk along the cheery pavement, with the 
suggestive succession of human faces, and the brisk 
throb of human life, in which I shared ; my dinner at 
the Albion, where I had a hundred dishes at command, 
and could banquet as delicately as the wizard Michael 
Scott when the devil fed him from the King of France's 
kitchen ; my evening at the billiard-club, the concert, the 
4 



50 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

theatre, or at somebody's party, if I pleased ; — what 
could be better than all this ? Was it better to hoe, to 
mow, to toil and moil amidst the accumulations of a 
barn-yard ; to be the chamber-maid of two yoke of oxen 
and a dozen cows ; to eat salt beef, and earn it with the 
sweat of my brow, and thereby take the tough morsel 
out of some wretch's mouth, into whose vocation I had 
thrust myself? Above all, was it better to have a fever, 
and die blaspheming, as I was like to do ? 

In this wretched plight, with a furnace in my heart, 
and another in my head, by the heat of which I was 
kept constantly at the boiling point, yet shivering at the 
bare idea of extruding so much as a finger into the icy 
atmosphere of the room, I kept my bed until breakfast- 
time, when Hollingsworth knocked at the door, and 
entered. 

" Well, Coverdale," cried he, " you bid fair to make 
an admirable farmer ! Don't you mean to get up to- 
day?" 

" Neither to-day nor to-morrow," said I, hopelessly. 
" I doubt if I ever rise again ! " 

" What is the matter, now ? " he asked. 

I told him my piteous case, and besought him to send 
me back to town in a close carriage. 

" No, no I " said Hollingsworth, with kindly serious- 
ness. " If you are really sick, we must take care of 
you." 

Accordingly, he built a fire in my chamber, and, hav- 
ing little else to do while the snow lay on the ground, 
established himself as my nurse. A doctor was sent 
for, who, being homoeopathic, gave me as much medicine, 
in the course of a fortnight's attendance, as would have 



coverdale's sick-chamber. 51 

lain on the point of a needle. They fed me on water- 
gruel, and"! speedily became a skeleton above ground. 
But, after all, I have many precious recollections con- 
nected with that fit of sickness. 

/llollingsworth's more than brotherly attendance gave 
me inexpressible comfort. Most men — and certainly I 
could not always claim to be one of the exceptions — 
have a natural indifference, if not an absolutely hostile 
feeling, towards those whom disease, or weakness, or 
calamity of any kind, causes to falter and faint amid 
the rude jostle of our selfish existence. The education 
of Christianity, it is true, the sympathy of a like experi- 
ence, and the example of women, may soften, and, pos- 
sibly, subvert, this ugly characteristic of our sex ; but it 
is originally there, and has likewise its analogy in the 
practice of our brute brethren, who hunt the sick or dis- 
abled member of the herd from among them, as an 
enemy. It is for this reason that the stricken deer goes 
apart, and the sick lion grimly withdraws himself into 
his den. Except in love, or the attachments of kindred, 
or other very long and habitual affection, we really have 
no tenderness. But there was something of the woman 
moulded into the great, stalwart frame of Hollingsworth ; 
nor was he ashamed of it, as men often are of what is 
best in them, nor seemed ever to know that there was 
such a soft place in his heart. I knew it well, however, 
at that time, although afterwards it came nigh to be 
forgotten. Methought there could not be two such men 
alive as Hollingsworth. There never was any blaze of 
a fireside that warmed and cheered me, in the down- 
sinkings and shiverings of my spirit, so effectually as 



52 THE BLITHEDALE ROMAl^CE. 

did the light out of those eyes, which lay so deep and 
dark under his shaggy brows. 

Happy the man that has such a friend beside hirfl 
when he comes to die ! and unless a friend like Hollings- 
worth be at hand, — as most probably there will not, — he 
had better make up his mind to die alone. How many 
men, I wonder, does one meet with, in a lifetime, whom 
he would choose for his death-bed companions ! At the 
crisis of my fever, I besought Hollingsworth to let nobody 
else enter the room, but continually to make me sensible 
of his own presence, by a grasp of the hand, a word, a 
prayer, if he thought good to utter it ; and that then he 
should be the witness how courageously I would en- 
counter the worst. It still impresses me as almost a 
matter of regret, that I did not die then, when I had 
tolerably made up my mind to it; for Hollingsworth 
would have gone with me to the hither verge of life, 
and have sent his friendly and hopeful accents far over 
on the other side, while I should be treading the un- 
known path. Now, were I to send for him, he would 
hardly come to my bed-side, nor should I depart the 
easier for his presence. 

"You are not going to die, this time," said he, 
gravely smiling. " You know nothing about sickness, 
and think your case a great deal more desperate than it 
is." • 

" Death should take me while I am in the mood," 
replied I, with a little of my customary levity. 

" Have you nothing to do in life," asked Hollings- 
worth, " that you fancy yourself so ready to leave it ? " 

" Nothing," answered I ; " nothing, that I know of, 
unless to make pretty verses, and play a part, with 



coverdale's sick-chamber. 53 

Zenobia and the rest of the amateurs, in our pastoral. 
It seems but an unsubstantial sort of business, as viewed 
through a mist of fever. But, dear Hollingsworth, your 
OAvn vocation is evidently to be a priest, and to spend 
your days and nights in helping your fellow-creatures to 
draw peaceful dying breaths." 

" And by which of my qualities," inquired he, " can 
you suppose me fitted for this awful ministry ? " 

" By your tenderness," I said. " It seems to me the 
reflection of God's own love." 

" And you call me tender ! " repeated Hollingsworth, y 

thoughtfully. "I should rather say that the most 
marked trait in niy character_is a n in flexi ble severity of 
purpose. Mortal man has no right to be so inflexible as 
it is my nature and necessity to be." 

" I do not believe it," I replied. 

But, in due time, I remembered what he said. 

Probably, as Hollingsworth suggested, my disorder 
was never so serious as, in my ignorance of such mat- 
ters, I was inclined to consider it. After so much tragi- 
cal preparation, it was positively rather mortifying to 
find myself on the mending hand. 

All the other members of the Community showed me 
kindness according to the full measure of their capacity. 
Zenobia brought me my gruel, every day, made by her 
own hands (not very skilfully, if the truth must be told) ; 
and whenever I seemed inclined to converse, would sit 
by my bed-side, and talk with so much vivacity as to 
add several gratuitous throbs to my pulse. Her poor 
little stories and tracts never half did justice to her intel- 
lect. It was only the lack of a fitter avenue that drove 
her to seek development in literature. She was made 



54 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

(among a thousand other things that she might have 
been) for a stump-oratress. I recognized no severe cul- 
ture in Zenobia ; her mind was full of v^eeds. It startled 
me, sometimes, in my state of moral as v^ell as bodily 
faint-heartedness, to observe the hardihood of her philoso- 
phy. She made no scruple of oversetting all human 
institutions, and scattering them as with a breeze from 
her fan. A female reformer, in her attacks upon society, 
has an instinctive sense of where the life lies, and is 
inclined to aim directly at that spot. Especially the 
relation between the sexes is naturally among the 
earliest to attract her notice. 

Zenobia was truly a magnificent woman. The homely 
simplicity of her dress could not conceal, nor scarcely 
diminish, the queenliness of her presence. The image 
of her form and face should have been multiplied all )^ 
over the earth. It was wronging the rest of mankind 
to retain her as the spectacle of only a few. The stage 
would have been her proper sphere. She should have 
made it a point of duty, moreover, to sit endlessly to 
painters and sculptors, and preferably to the latter ; 
because the cold decorum of the marble would consist 
with the utmost scantiness of drapery, so that the eye 
might chastely be gladdened with her material perfec- 
tion in its entireness. I know not well how to express, 
that the native glow of coloring in her cheeks, and even 
the flesh-warmth over her round arms, and what was 
visible of her full bust, — in a word, her womanliness 
incarnated, — compelled me sometimes to close my eyes, 
as if it were not quite the privilege of modesty to gaze 
at her. Illness and exhaustion, no doubt, had made me 
morbidly sensitive. 



55 



I noticed — and wondered how Zenobia contrived it — 
that she had always a new flower in her hair. And 
still it was a hot-house flower, — an outlandish flower, 
— a flower of the tropics, such as appeared to have 
sprung passionately out of a soil the very weeds of which 
would be fervid and spicy. Unlike as was the flower 
of each successive day to the preceding one, it yet so 
assimilated its richness to the rich beauty of the woman, 
that I thought it the only flower fit to be worn ; so fit, 
indeed, that Nature had evidently created this floral 
gem, in a happy exuberance, for the one purpose of 
worthily adorning Zenobia's head. It might be that my 
feverish fantasies clustered themselves about this pecu- 
liarity, and caused it to look more gorgeous and wonder- 
ful than if beheld with temperate eyes. In the height 
of my illness, as I well recollect, I went so far as to pro- 
nounce it preternatural. 

" Zenobia is an enchantress ! " whispered I once to 
Rollings worth. " She is a sister of the Veiled Lady. 
That flower in her hair is a talisman. If you were to 
snatch it away, she would vanish, or be transformed into 
something else." 

" What does he say ? " asked Zenobia. 

" Nothing that has an atom of sense in it," answered 
HoUingsworth. " He is a little beside himself, I believe, 
and talks about your being a witch, and of some magical 
property in the flower that you wear in your hair." 

" It is an idea worthy of a feverish poet," said she, 
laughing rather compassionately, and taking out the 
flower. " I scorn to owe anything to magic. Here, Mr. 
HoUingsworth, you may keep the spell while it has any 
virtue in it ; but I cannot promise you not to appear with 



56 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 



a new one to-morrow. It is the one relic of my more 
brilliant, my happier days ! " 

The most curious part of the matter was, that long 
after my slight delirium had passed away, — as long, 
indeed, as I continued to know this remarkable woman, 
— her daily flower affected my imagination, though 
more slightly, yet in very much the same way. The 
reason must have been that, whether intentionally on 
her part or not, this favorite ornament was actually a 
subtile expression of Zenobia's character. 

One subject, about which — very impertinently, more- 
over — I perplexed myself with a great many conjec- 
tures, was, whether Zenobia had ever been married. 
The idea, it must be understood, was unauthorized by 
any circumstance or suggestion that had made its way 
to my ears. So young as I beheld her, and the freshest 
and rosiest woman of a thousand, there was certainly no 
need of imputing to her a destiny already accomplished ; 
the probability was far greater that her coming years 
had all life's richest gifts to bring. If the great event 
of a woman's existence had been consummated, the world 
knew nothing of it, although the world seemed to know 
Zenobia well. It was a ridiculous piece of romance, 
undoubtedly, to imagine that this beautiful personage, 
wealthy as she was, and holding a position that might 
fairly enough be called distinguished, could have given 
herself away so privately, but that some whisper and 
suspicion, and, by degrees, a full understanding of the 
fact, would eventually be blown abroad. But then, as I 
failed not to consider, her original home was at a dis- 
tance of many hundred miles. Eumors might fill the 
social atmosphere, or might once have filled it, there, 



coverdale's sick-chamber. 57 

which would travel but slowly, against the wind, towards 
our north-eastern metropolis, and perhaps melt into thin 
air before reaching it. 

There was not — and I distinctly repeat it — the 
slightest foundation in my knowledge for any surmise of 
the kind. But there is a species of intuition, — either a 
spiritual lie, or the subtle recognition of a fact, — which 
comes to us in a reduced state of the corporeal system. 
The soul gets the better of the body, after wasting ill- 
ness, or when a vegetable diet may have mingled too 
much ether in the blood. Vapors then rise up to the 
brain, and take shapes that often image falsehood, but 
sometimes truth. The spheres of our companions have, 
at such periods, a vastly greater influence upon our own 
than when robust health gives us a repellent and self- 
defensive energy. Zenobia's sphere, I imagine, impressed 
itself powerfully on mine, and transformed me, during 
this period of my w^eakness, into something like a mes- 
merical clairvoyant. 

Then, also, as anybody could observe, the freedom of 
her deportment (though, to some tastes, it might com- 
mend itself as the utmost perfection of manner in a 
youthful widow or a blooming matron) was not exactly 
maiden-like. What girl had ever laughed as Zenobia 
did ? What girl had ever spoken in her mellow tones ? 
Her unconstrained and inevitable manifestation, I said 
often to myself, was that of a woman to whom wedlock 
had thrown wide the gates of mystery. Yet sometimes 
I strove to be ashamed of these conjectures. I acknowl- 
edged it as a masculine grossness, — a sin of wicked 
interpretation, of which man is often guilty towards the 
other sex, — thus to mistake the sweet, liberal, but 



58 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

womanly frankness of a noble and generous disposition. 
Still, it was of no avail to reason with myself, nor to up- 
braid myself. Pertinaciously the thought, " Zenobia is a 
wife, — Zenobia has lived and loved ! There is no folded 
petal, no latent dew-drop, in this perfectly-developed 
rose ! " — irresistibly that thought drove out all other 
conclusions, as often as my mind reverted to the subject. 

Zenobia was conscious of my observation, though not, 
I presume, of the point to which it led me. 

" Mr. Coverdale," said she, one day, as she saw me 
watching her, while she arranged my gruel on the table, 
" I have been exposed to a great deal of eye-shot in the 
few years of my mixing in the world, but never, I think, 
to precisely such glances as you are in the habit of 
favoring me with. I seem to interest you very much ; 
and yet — or else a woman's instinct is for once 
deceived — I cannot reckon you as an admirer. What 
are you seeking to discover in me ? " 

" The mystery of your life," answered I, surprised into 
the truth by the unexpectedness of her attack. " And 
you will never tell me." 

She bent her head towards me, and let me look into 
her eyes, as if challenging me to drop a plummet-line 
down into the depths of her consciousness. 

" I see nothing now," said I, closing my own eyes, 
" unless it be the face of a sprite laughing at me from 
the bottom of a deep well." 

A bachelor always feels himself defrauded, when he 
knows, or suspects, that any woman of his acquaintance 
has given herself away. Otherwise, the matter could 
have been no concern of mine. It was purely specula- 
tive ; for I should not, under any circumstances, have 



coverdale's sick-chamber. 59 

fallen in love with Zenobia. The riddle made me so 
nervous, however, in my sensitive condition of mind and 
body, that I most ungratefully began to wish that she 
would let me alone. Then, too, her gruel was very 
wretched stuff, with almost invariably the smell of pine 
smoke upon it, like the evil taste that is said to mix 
itself up with a witch's best concocted dainties. Why 
could not she have allowed one of the other women to 
take the gruel in charge ? Whatever else might be her 
gifts, Nature certainly never intended Zenobia for a 
cook. Or, if so, she should have meddled only with the 
richest and spiciest dishes, and such as are to be tasted 
at banquets, between draughts of intoxicating wine. 



VII. 

THE CONVALESCENT. 

As soon as my incommodities allowed me to think of 
past occurrences, I failed not to inquire what had become 
of the odd little guest whom Hollingsworth had been the 
medium of introducing among us. It now appeared that 
poor Priscilla had not so literally fallen out of the clouds 
as we were at first inclined to suppose. A letter, which 
should have introduced her, had since been received 
from one of the city missionaries, containing a certificate 
of character, and an allusion to circumstances which, in 
the writer's judgment, made it especially desirable that 
she should find shelter in our Community. There was a 
hint, not very intelligible, implying either that Priscilla 
had recently escaped from some particular peril or irk- 
someness of position, or else that she was still liable to 
this danger or difficulty, whatever it might be. We 
should ill have deserved the reputation of a benevolent 
fraternity, had we hesitated to entertain a petitioner in 
such need, and so strongly recommended to our kind- 
ness ; not to mention, moreover, that the strange maiden 
had set herself diligently to work, and was doing good 
service with her needle. But a slight mist of uncer- 
tainty still floated about Priscilla, and kept her, as yet, 
from taking a very decided place among creatures of 
flesh and blood. 

The mysterious attraction, which, from her first 



THE CONVALESCENT. 61 

entrance on our scene, she evinced for Zenobia, had lost 
nothing of its force. I often heard her footsteps, soft and 
low, accompanying the light but decided tread of the 
latter up the staircase, stealing along the passage-way 
by her new friend's side, and pausing while Zenobia 
entered my chamber. Occasionally, Zenobia would be 
a little annoyed by Priscilla's too close attendance. In 
an authoritative and not very kindly tone, she would 
advise her to breathe the pleasant air in a walk, or to go 
with her work into the bam, holding out half a promise 
to come and sit on the hay with her, when at leisure. 
Evidently, Priscilla found but scanty requital for her 
love. HoUingsworth was likewise a great favorite with 
her. For several minutes together, sometimes, while 
my auditory nerves retained the susceptibility of delicate 
health, I used to hear a low, pleasant murmur, ascend- 
ing from the room below ; and at last ascertained it to be 
Priscilla's voice, babbling like a little brook to HoUings- 
worth. She talked more largely and freely with him 
than with Zenobia, towards whom, indeed, her feelings 
seemed not so much to be confidence as involuntary 
affection. I should have thought all the better of my 
own qualities, had Priscilla marked me out for the 
third place in her regards. But, though she appeared 
to like me tolerably well, I could never flatter myself 
with being distinguished by her as HoUingsworth and 
Zenobia were. 

One forenoon, during my convalescence, there came a 
gentle tap at my chamber-door. I immediately said, 
" Come in, Priscilla ! " with an acute sense of the appli- 
cant's identity. Nor was I deceived. It was really 
Priscilla, — a pale, large-eyed little woman (for she 



62 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

had gone far enough into her teens to be, at least, on 
the outer limit of girlhood), but much less wan than at 
my previous view of her, and far better conditioned both 
as to health and spirits. As I first saw her, she had 
reminded me of plants that one sometimes observes 
doing their best to vegetate among the bricks of an 
enclosed court, where there is scanty soil, and never any 
sunshine. At present, though with no approach to 
bloom, there were indications that the girl had human 
blood in her veins. 

Priscilla came softly to my bed-side, and held out an 
article of snow-white linen, very carefully and smoothly 
ironed. She did not seem bashful, nor anjrwise embar- 
rassed. My weakly condition, I suppose, supplied a 
medium in which she could approach me. 

" Do not you need this ? " asked she. " I have made 
it for you." 

It was a night-cap ! 

" My dear Priscilla," said I, smiling, " I never had on a 
night-cap in my life ! But perhaps it will be better for 
me to wear one, now that I am a miserable invalid. 
How admirably you have done it ! No, no ; I never can 
think of wearing such an exquisitely wrought night-cap 
as this, unless it be in the day-time, when I sit up to 
receive company." 

" It is for use, not beauty," answered Priscilla. " I 
could have embroidered it, and made it much prettier, if 
I pleased." 

While holding up the night-cap, and admiring the fine 
needle-work, I perceived that Priscilla had a sealed let- 
ter, which she was waiting for me to take. It had 
arrived from the village post-ofiice that morning. As I 



THE CONVALESCENT. 



63 



did not immediately offer to receive the letter, she drew 
it back, and held it against her bosom, with both hands 
clasped over it, in a way that had probably gro^vn 
habitual to her. Now, on turning my eyes from the 
night-cap to Priscilla, it forcibly struck me that her air, 
though not her figure, and the expression of her face, 
but not its features, had a resemblance to what I had 
often seen in a friend of mine, one of the most gifted 
women of the age. I cannot describe it. The points^- 
easiest to convey to the reader were, a certain curve of 
the shoulders, and a partial closing of the eyes, whicl\ 
seemed to look more penetratingly into my own eyes, 
through the narrowed apertures, than if they had been i 
open at full width. It was a singular anomaly of like- 
ness coexisting with perfect dissimilitude. 

" Will you give me the letter, Priscilla ? " said I. 

She started, put the letter into my hand, and quite 
lost the look that had drawn my notice. 

"Priscilla," I inquired, "did you ever see Miss 
Margaret Fuller ? " 

" No," she answered. 

" Because," said I, " you reminded me of her, just 
now ; and it happens, strangely enough, that this very 
letter is from her." 

Priscilla, for whatever reason, looked very much dis- 
composed. 

" I wish people would not fancy such odd things in 
me ! " she said, rather petulantly. " How could I pos- 
sibly make myself resemble this lady, merely by holding 
her letter in my hand ? " 

" Certainly, Priscilla, it would puzzle me to explain 
it," I replied ; " nor do I suppose that the letter had any- 



64 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

thing to do with it. It was just a coincidence, nothing 
more." 

She hastened out of the room, and this was the last 
that I saw of Priscilla until I ceased to be an invalid. 

Being much alone, during my recovery, I read inter- 
minably in Mr. Emerson's Essays, the Dial, Carlyle's 
works, George Sand's romances (lent me by Zenobia), and 
other books which one or another of the brethren or 
sisterhood had brought with them. Agreeing in little 
else, most of these utterances were lilte the cry of some 
solitary sentinel, whose station was on the outposts of 
the advance-guard of human progression ; or, sometimes, 
the voice cam^e sadly from among the shattered ruins of 
the past, but yet had a hopeful echo in the future. 
They were well adapted (better, at least, than any other 
intellectual products, the volatile essence of which had 
heretofore tinctured a printed page) to pilgrims like 
ourselves, whose present bivouac was considerably fur- 
ther into the waste of chaos than any mortal army of 
crusaders had ever marched before. Fourier's works, 
also, in a series of horribly tedious volumes, attracted a 
good deal of my attention, from the analogy which I 
could not but recognize between his system and our 
own. There was far less resemblance, it is true, than 
the world chose to imagine, inasmuch as the two theories 
differed, as widely as the zenith from the nadir, in their 
main principles. 

I talked about Fourier to Hollings worth, and trans- 
lated, for his benefit, some of the passages that chiefly 
impressed me. 

" When, as a consequence of human improvement," 
said I, " the globe shall arrive at its final perfection, the 



THE CONVALESCENT. 65 

great ocean is to be converted into a particular kind of 
lemonade, such as was fashionable at Paris in Fourier's 
time. He calls it limonade a cedre. It is positively a 
fact ! Just imagine the city-docks filled, every day, with 
a flood-tide of this delectable beverage ! " 

" Why did not the Frenchman make punch of it, at 
once ?" asked Hollingsworth. " The jack-tars woald be 
delighted to go down in ships and do business in such 
an element." 

I further proceeded to explain, as well as I modestly 
could, several points of Fourier's system, illustrating 
them with here and there a page or two, and asking 
Hollingsworth's opinion as to the expediency of intro- 
ducing these beautiful peculiarities into our own prac- 
tice. 

" Let me hear no more of it ! " cried he, in utter dis- 
gust. " I never will forgive this fellow ! He has com- 
mitted the unpardonable sin ; for what more monstrous 
iniquity could the devil himself contrive than to choose 
the selfish principle, — the principle of all human wrong, 
the very blackness of man's heart, the portion of our- 
selves which we shudder at, and which it is the whole 
aim of spiritual discipline to eradicate, — to choose it as 
the master-v/orionan of his system ? To seize upon and 
foster whatevej_vil%~'^ettyT"'S^i^'didv --filthy f'besti and 
ate'miiiaBIe corruptions have cankered into our nature, 
to beTKeeffiQieatJbi&Eumeiits Qf.Jiis..inlW"»a]:-regenera- 



tiorU---And his consummated Paradise, as he pictures 
it, would be worthy of the agency which he counts upon 
for establishing it. The nauseous villain ! '* 

" Nevertheless," remarked I, " in consideration of the 
promised delights of his system, — so very proper, as 
5 



66 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

they certainly are, to be appreciated by Fourier's coun- 
trymen, — I cannot but wonder that universal France 
did not adopt his theory, at a moment's warning. But 
is there not something very characteristic of his nation 
in Fourier's manner of putting forth his views? He 
makes no claim to inspiration. He has not persuaded 
himself — as Swedenborg did, and as any other than a 
Frenchman would, with a mission of like importance to 
communicate — that he speaks with authority from 
above. He promulgates his system, so far as I can per- 
ceive, entirely on his own responsibility. He has 
searched out and discovered the whole counsel of the 
Almighty, in respect to mankind, past, present, and for 
exactly seventy thousand years to come, by the mere 
force and cunning of his individual intellect ! " 

" Take the book out of my sight," said Hollingsworth, 
with great virulence of expression, " or, I tell you fairly, 
I shall fling it in the fire ! And as for Fourier, let him 
make a Paradise, if he can, of Gehenna, where, as I 
conscientiously believe, he is floundering at this mo- 
ment ! " 

" And bellowing, I suppose," said I, — not that I felt 
any ill-will towards Fourier, but merely wanted to give 
the finishing touch to Hollingsworth's image, — " bellow- 
ing for the least drop of his beloved limonade a cedre ! " 

There is but little profit to be expected in attempting 
to argue with a man who allows himself to declaim in 
this manner ; so I dropt the subject, and never took it 
up again. 

But had the system at which he was so enraged com- 
bined almost any amount of human wisdom, spiritual 
insight, and imaginative beauty, I question whether 



THE CONVALESCENT. 67 

Hollingsworth's mind was in a fit condition to receive it. 
I began to discern that ^"^J^^^^jJl^lIlfLfljnnT^g n^^^ n^tnntpri 
by no real sympathy with our feelings and our hopes , 
but chiefly because we were e stranging ourselves fr om 
the world, with wMchhisTonely a^.._exclii^sivejobj[ect^in 
life had already put him at odds. Hollingsworth must 
have been originally endowed with a great spirit of 
benevolence, deep enough and warm enough to be the 
source of as much disinterested good as Providence often 
allows a human being the privilege of conferring upon 
his fellows. This native instinct yet lived within him. 
I myself had profited by it, in my necessity. It was 
seen, too, in his treatment of Priscilla. Such casual cir- 
cumstances as were here involved would quicken his 
divine power of sympathy, and make him seem, while 
their influence lasted, the tenderest man and the truest 
friend on earth. But, by and by, you missed the tender- 
ness of yesterday, and grew drearily conscious that Hol- 
lingsworth had a closer friend than ever you could be ; 
and this friend was the cold, spectral monster which he 
had himself conjured up, and on which he was wasting 
all the warmth of his heart, and of which, at last, — as 
these men of a mighty purpose so invariably do, — he 
had grown to be the bond-slave. It was his philan- 
thropic theory. 

This was a result exceedingly sad to contemplate, 
considering that it had been mainly brought about by 
the very ardor and exuberance of his philanthropy. 
Sad, indeed, but by no means unusual. He had 
taught his benevolence to pour its warm tide exclusively 
through one channel ; so that there was nothing to spare 
for other great manifestations of love to man, nor scarcely 



68 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

for the nutriment of individual attachments, unless they 
could minister, in some wa}^, to the terrible egotism 
which he mistook for an angel of God. Had HoUings- 
worth's education been more enlarged, he might not so 
inevitably have stumbled into this pit-fall. But this 
identical pursuit had educated him. He knew abso- 
lutely nothing, except in a single direction, where he 
had thought so energetically, and felt to such a depth, 
that, no doubt, the entire reason and justice of the uni- 
verse appeared to be concentrated thitherward. 

It is my private opinion that, at this period of his 
life, Hollingsvvorth was fast going mad ; and, as with 
other crazy people (among whom I include humorists 
of every degree), it required all the constancy of friend- 
ship to restrain his associates from pronouncing him 
an intolerable bore. Such prolonged fiddling upon one 
string, — such multiform presentation of one idea ! His 
specific object (of which he made the public more than 
sufficiently aware, through the medium of lectures and 
pamphlets) was to obtain funds for the construction of 
an edifice, with a sort of collegiate endowment. On 
this foundation, he purposed to devote himself and a 
few disciples to the reform and mental culture of our 
criminal brethren. His visionary edifice was Hollings- 
worth's one castle in the air ; it was the material type 
in which his philanthropic dream strove to embody 
itself; and he made the scheme more definite, and 
caught hold of it the more strongly, and kept his clutch 
the more pertinaciously, by rendering it visible to the 
bodily eye. I have seen him, a hundred times, with a 
pencil and sheet of paper, sketching the facade, the side- 
view, or the rear of the structure, or planning the inter- 



THE CONVALESCENT. 69 

nal arrangements, as lovingly as another man might 
plan those of the projected home where he meant to be 
happy with his wife and children. I have known him 
to begin a model of the building with little stones, 
gathered at the brook-side, whither we had gone to 
cool ourselves in the sultry noon of Lcxying-time. Unlike 
all other ghosts, his spirit haunted an edifice which, 
instead of being time-worn, and full of storied love, and 
joy, and sorrow, had never yet come into existence. 

" Dear friend," said I, once, to Hollingsworth, before 
leaving my sick-chamber, " I heartily wish that I could 
make your schemes my schemes, because it would be so 
great a happiness to find myself treading the same path 
with you. But I am afraid there is not stuff in me 
stern enough for a philanthropist, — or not in this 
peculiar direction, — or, at all events, not solely in this. 
Can you bear with me, if such should prove to be the 
case ? " 

*' I will, at least, wait a while," answered Hollings- 
worth, gazing at me sternly and gloomily. " But how 
can you be my life-long friend, except you strive with 
me towards the great object of my life ?" 

Heaven forgive me ! A horrible suspicion crept into 
my heart, and stung the very core of it as with the fangs 
of an adder. I wondered whether it were possible that 
Hollingsworth could have watched by my bed-side, witt^ 
all that devoted care, only for the ulterior purpose of ^ 
making me a proselyte to his views ! — ^ 



VIII. 

A MODERN ARCADIA. 

May-day — I forget whether by Zenobia's sole decree, 
or by the unanimous vote of our Community — had been 
declared a movable festival. It was deferred until the 
sun should have had a reasonable time to clear away the 
snow-drifts along the lee of the stone walls, and bring 
out a few of the readiest wild-flowers. On the forenoon 
of the substituted day, after admitting some of the balmy 
air into my chamber, I decided that it was nonsense and 
effeminacy to keep myself a prisoner any longer. So I 
descended to the sitting-room, and finding nobody there, 
proceeded to the barn, whence I had already heard 
Zenobia's voice, and along with it a girlish laugh, which 
was not so certainly recognizable. Arriving at the spot, 
it a little surprised me to discover that these merry out- 
breaks came from Priscilla. 

The two had been a Maying together. They had 
found anemones in abundance, housatoniastby the hand- 
ful, some columbines, a few long-stalked violets, and a 
quantity of white everlasting-flowers, and had filled up 
their basket with the delicate spray of shrubs and trees. 
None were prettier than the maple-twigs, the leaf of 
which looks like a scarlet bud in May, and like a plate 
of vegetable gold in October. Zenobia, who showed no 
conscience in such matters, had also rifled a cherry-tree 
of one of its blossomed boughs, and, wdth all this variety 



A MODERN ARCADIA. 71 

of sylvan ornament, had been decking out Priscilla. 
Being done with a good deal of taste, it made her look 
more charming than I should have thought possible, 
with my recollection of the wan, frost-nipt girl, as here- 
tofore described. Nevertheless, among those fragrant 
blossoms, and conspicuously, too, had been stuck a weed 
of evil odor and ugly aspect, which, as soon as I 
detected it, destroyed the effect of all the rest. There 
was a gleam of latent mischief — not to call it deviltry — 
in Zenobia's eye, which seemed to indicate a slightly 
malicious purpose in the arrangement. 

As for herself, she scorned the rural buds and leaflets, 
and wore nothing but her invariable flower of the 
tropics. 

"What do you think of Priscilla now, Mr. Cover- 
dale ? '* asked she, surveying her as a child does its doll. 
" Is not she worth a verse or tw^o ?" 

*' There is only one thing amiss," answered I. 

Zenobia laughed, and flung the malignant w^eed away. 

" Yes ; she deserves some verses now," said I, " and 
from a better poet than myself. She is the very picture 
of the New England spring ; subdued in tint, and rather 
cool, but with a capacity of sunshine, and bringing us a 
few Alpine blossoms, as earnest of something richer, 
though hardly more beautiful, hereafter. The best type 
of her is one of those anemones." 

"What I find most singular in Priscilla, as her health 
improves," observed Zenobia, " is her wildness. Such 
a quiet little body as she seemed, one would not have 
expected that. Why, as we strolled the woods together, 
I could hardly keep her from scrambling up the trees, 
like a squirrel ? She has never before known what it is 



72 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

to live in the free air, and so it intoxicates her as if she 
were sipping wine. And she thinks it such a paradise 
here, and all of us, particularly Mr. Hollingsworth and 
myself, such angels ! It is quite ridiculous, and pro- 
vokes one's malice almost, to see a creature so happy, — 
especially a feminine creature." 

" They are always happier than male creatures," 
said I. 

" You must correct that opinion, Mr. Coverdale," 
replied Zenobia, contemptuously, " or I shall think you 
lack the poetic insight. Did you ever see a happy 
woman in your life ? Of course, I do not mean a girl, 
like Priscilla, and a thousand others, — for they are all 
alike, while on the sunny side of experience, — but a 
grown w^oman. How can she be happy, after discover- 
ing that fate has assigned her but one single event, 
wdiich she must contrive to make the substance of her 
whole life ? A man has his choice of innumerable 
events." 

"A w^oman, I suppose," answered I, "by constant 
repetition of her one event, may compensate for the lack 
of variety." 

" Indeed ! " said Zenobia. 

While we were talking, Priscilla caught sight of 
Hollingsworth, at a distance, in a blue frock, and with a 
hoe over his shoulder, returning from the field. She 
immediately set out to meet him, running and skipping, 
with spirits as light as the breeze of the May morning, 
but with limbs too little exercised to be quite responsive ; 
she clapped her hands, too, with great exuberance of 
gesture, as is the custom of young girls when their 
electricity overcharges them. But, all at once, midway 



A MODERN ARCADIA. 73 

to HoUingsWorth, she paused, looked round about her, 
towards the river, the road, the woods, and back towards 
us, appearing to listen, as if she heard some one calling 
her name, and knew not precisely in what direction. 

" Have you bewitched her ? " I exclaimed. 

" It is no sorcery of mine," said Zenobia ; " but I 
have seen the girl do that identical thing once or twice 
before. Can you imagine what is the matter with her ? " 

"No; unless,'* said I, "she has the gift of hearing 
those * airy tongues that syllable men's names,' which 
Milton tells about." 

From whatever cause, Priscilla's animation seemed 
entirely to have deserted her. She seated herself on a 
rock, and remained there until Rollings v^orth came up ; 
and when he took her hand and led her back to us, she 
rather resembled my original image of the wan and 
spiritless Priscilla than the flowery May-queen of a 
few moments ago. These sudden transformations, only 
to be accounted for by an extreme nervous susceptibil- 
ity, always continued to characterize the girl, though 
with diminished frequency as her health progressively 
grew more robust. 

I was now on my legs again. My fit of illness had 
been an avenue between two existences ; the low-arched 
and darksome doorway, through which I crept out of a 
life of old conventionalisms, on my hands and knees, as 
it were, and gained admittance into the freer region that 
lay beyond. In this respect, it was like death. And, 
as with death, too, it was good to have gone through it. 
No otherwise could I have rid myself of a thousand fol- 
lies, fripperies, prejudices, habits, and other such worldly 
dust as inevitably settles upon the crowd along the broad 



74 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

highway, giving them all one sordid aspect before noon- 
time, however freshly they may have begun their pil- 
grimage in the dewy morning. The very substance 
upon my bones had not been fit to live with in any bet- 
ter, truer, or more energetic mode than that to which I 
was accustomed. So it was taken off me and flung 
aside, like any other worn-out or unseasonable garment ; 
and, after shivering a little while in my skeleton, I began 
to be clothed anew, and much more satisfactorily than 
in my previous suit. In literal and physical truth, I was 
quite another man. I had a lively sense of the exulta- 
tion with which the spirit will enter on the next stage 
of its eternal progress, after leaving the heavy burthen 
of its mortality in an earthly grave, with as little con- 
cern for what may become of it as now affected me for 
the flesh which I had lost. 

Emerging into the genial sunshine, I half fancied that 
the labors of the brotherhood had already realized some 
of Fourier's predictions. Their enlightened culture of 
the soil, and the virtues with which they sanctified their 
life, had begun to produce an effect upon the material 
world and its climate. In my new enthusiasm, man 
looked strong and stately, — and woman, O how beauti- 
ful ! — and the earth a green garden, blossoming with 
many-colored delights. Thus Nature, whose laws I had 
broken in various artificial ways, comported herself 
towards me as a strict but loving mother, who uses the 
rod upon her little boy for his naughtiness, and then 
gives him a smile, a kiss, and some pretty playthings, 
to console the urchin for her severity. 

In the interval of my seclusion, there had been a num- 
ber of recruits to our little army of saints and martyrs. 



A MODERN ARCADIA. 76 

They were mostly individuals who had gone through 
such an experience as to disgust them with ordinary 
pursuits, but who were not yet so old, nor had suffered 
so deeply, as to lose their faith in the better time to 
come. On comparing their minds one with another, 
they often discovered that this idea of a Community had 
been growing up, in silent and unknovvn sympathy, for 
years. Thoughtful, strongly-lined faces were among 
them ; sombre brows, but eyes that did not require spec- 
tacles, unless prematurely dimmed by the student's 
lamplight, and hair that seldom showed a thread of sil- 
ver. Age, wedded to the past, incrusted over with a 
stony layer of habits, and retaining nothing fluid in its 
possibilities, would have been absurdly out of place in 
an enterprise like this. Youth, too, in its early dawn, 
was hardly more adapted to our purpose ; for it would 
behold the morning radiance of its own spirit beaming 
over the very same spots of withered grass and barren 
sand whence most of us had seen it vanish. We had 
very young people with us, it is true, — downy lads, 
rosy girls in their first teens, and children of all heights 
above one's knee ; — but these had chiefly been sent 
hither for education, which it was one of the objects and 
methods of our institution to supply. Then we had 
boarders, from town and elsewhere, who lived with us in 
a familiar way, sympathized more or less in our theo- 
ries, and sometimes shared in our labors. 

On the whole, it was a society such as has seldom met 
together ; nor, perhaps, could it reasonably be expected 
to hold together long. Persons of marked individuality 
— crooked sticks, as some of us might be called — are 
not exactly the easiest to bind up into a fagot. But, so 



76 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

long as our union should subsist, a man of intellect and 
feeling, with a free nature in him, might have sought far 
and near without finding so many points of attraction 
as would allure him hitherward. We were of all creeds 
and opinions, and generally tolerant of all, on every im- 
aginable subject. Our bond, it seems to me, w^as not 
affirmative, but negative. We had individually found 
one thing or another to quarrel with in our past life, and 
were pretty well agreed as to the inexpediency of lum- 
bering along with the old system any further. As to 
what should be substituted, there was much less una- 
nimity. We did not greatly care — at least, I never 
did — for the WTitten constitution under which our mil- 
lennium had commenced. My hope was, that, between 
theory and practice, a true and available mode of life 
might be struck out ; and that, even should we ulti- 
mately fail, the months or years spent in the trial would 
not have been wasted, either as regarded passing en- 
joyment, or the experience which makes men wise. 

Arcadians though we were, our costume bore no 
resemblance to the be-ribboned doublets, silk breeches 
and stockings, and slippers fastened with artificial roses, 
that distinguish the pastoral people of poetry and the 
stage. In outward show, I humbly conceive, we looked 
rather like a gang of beggars, or banditti, than either a 
company of honest laboring men, or a conclave of philos- 
ophers. Whatever might be our points of difl[erence, we 
all of us seemed to have come to Blithedale with the one 
thrifty and laudable idea of wearing out our old clothes. 
Such garments as had an airing, whenever we strode 
a-field ! Coats with high collars and with no collars, 
broad-skirted or swallow-tailed, and with the waist at 



A MODERN ARCADIA. 



every point between the hip and armpit; pantaloons of 
a dozen successive epochs, and greatly defaced at the 
knees by the humiliations of the wearer before his lady- 
love ; — in short, we were a living epitome of defunct 
fashions, and the very raggedest presentment of men 
who had seen better days. It was gentility in tatters. 
Often retaining a scholarlike or clerical air, you might 
have taken us for the denizens of Grub-street, intent on 
getting a comfortable livelihood by agricultural labor ; or, 
Coleridge's projected Pantisocracy in full experiment; 
or, Candide and his motley associates, at work in their 
cabbage-garden; or anything else that was miserably out 
at elbows, and most clumsily patched in the rear. We 
might have been sworn comrades to Falstaff 's ragged 
regiment. Little skill as we boasted in other points of 
husbandry, every mother's son of us would have served 
admirably to stick up for a scarecrow. And the worst 
of the matter was, that the first energetic movement 
essential to one downright stroke of real labor was sure 
to put a finish to these poor habiliments. So we grad- 
ually flung them all aside, and took to honest homespun 
and linsey-woolsey, as preferable, on the whole, to the 
plan recommended, I think, by Virgil, — " Ara nudus ; 
sere midus^'' — which, as Silas Foster remarked, when I 
translated the maxim, would be apt to astonish the 
women-folks. 

After a reasonable training, the yeoman life throve 
well with us. Our faces took the sunburn kindly ; our 
chests gained in compass, and our shoulders in breadth 
and squareness ; our great brown fists looked as if they 
had never been capable of kid gloves. The plough, the 
hoe, the scythe, and the hay-fork, grew familiar to ouj' 



78 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

grasp. The oxen responded to our voices. We could 
do almost as fair a day's work . as Silas Foster himself, 
sleep dreamlessly after it, and awake at daybreak with 
only a little stiffness of the joints, which was usually 
quite gone by breakfast-time. 

To be sure, our next neighbors pretended to be incred- 
ulous as to our real proficiency in the business which we 
had taken in hand. They told slanderous fables about our 
inability to yoke our own oxen, or to drive them a -field 
when yoked, or to release the poor brutes from their con- 
jugal bond at night-fall. They had the face to say, too, 
that the cows laughed at our awkwardness at milking- 
time, and invariably kicked over the pails ; partly in con- 
sequence of our putting the stool on the wrong side, and 
partly because, taking offence at the whisking of their 
tails, we v^ere in the habit of holding these natural fly- 
flappers with one hand, and milking with the other. 
They further averred that we hoed up whole acres of 
Indian corn and other crops, and drew the earth care- 
fully about the weeds ; and that we raised five hundred 
tufts of burdock, mistaking them for cabbages ; and that, 
by dint of unskilful planting, few of our seeds ever came 
up at all, or, if they did come up, it was stern-foremost; 
and that we spent the better part of the month of June 
in reversing a field of beans, which had thrust them- 
selves out of the ground in this unseemly way. They 
quoted it as nothing more than an ordinary occurrence 
for one or other of us to crop off two or three fingers, of 
a morning, by our clumsy use of the hay-cutter. Finally, 
and as an ultimate catastrophe, these mendacious rogues 
circulated a report that we communitarians were exter- 
minated, to the last man, by severing ourselves asunder 



A MODERN ARCADIA. 79 

with the sweep of our own scythes ! — and that the world 
had lost nothing by this little accident. 

But this was pure envy and malice on the part of the 
neighboring farmers. The peril of our new way of life 
was not lest we should fail in becoming practical agri- 
culturists, but that we should probably cease to be any- 
thing else. While our enterprise lay all in theory, 
we had pleased ourselves with delectable visions of the 
spirit ualization of labor. It was to be our form of 
prayer and ceremonial of worship. Each stroke of the 
hoe was to uncover some aromatic root of wisdom, here- 
tofore hidden from the sun. Pausing in the field, to let 
the wind exhale the moisture from our foreheads, we 
were to look upward, and catch glimpses into the far-off 
soul of truth. In this point of view, matters did not turn 
out quite so well as we anticipated. It is very true that, 
sometimes, gazing casually around me, out of the midst 
of my toil, I used to discern a richer picturesqueness in 
the visible scene of earth, and sky. There was, at such 
moments, a novelty, an unwonted aspect, on the face of 
Nature, as if she had been taken by surprise and seen at 
unawares, with no opportunity to put off her real look, 
and assume the mask with which she mysteriously hides 
herself from mortals. But this was all. The clods of 
earth, which we so constantly belabored and turned 
over and over, were never etherealized into thought. Our 
thoughts, on the contrary, were fast becoming cloddish. 
Our labor symbolized nothing, and left us mentally 
sluggish in the dusk of the evening. Intellectual activity 
is incompatible with any large amount of bodily exer- 
cise. The yeoman and the scholar — the yeoman and 
the man of finest moral culture, though not the man of 



80 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

sturdiest sense and integrity — are two distinct indi- 
viduals, and can never be melted or welded into one 
substance. 

Zenobia soon saw this truth, and gibed me about it, 
one evening, as Hollingsworth and I lay on the grass, 
after a hard day's work. 

" I am afraid you did not make a song, to-day, while 
loading the hay-cart," said she, *' as Burns did, when he 
was reaping barley." 

" Burns never made a song in haying-time," I an- 
swered, very positively. " He was no poet while a 
farmer, and no farmer while a poet." 

" And, on the whole, which of the two characters do 
you like best ? " asked Zenobia. " For I have an idea 
that you cannot combine them any better than Burns 
did. Ah, I see, in my mind's eye, w^hat sort of an 
individual you are to be, two or three years hence. 
Grim Silas Foster is your prototype, with his palm 
of sole-leather and his joints of rusty iron (which all 
through summer keep the stiffness of what he calls 
his winter's rheumatize), and his brain of — I don't 
know what his brain is made of, unless it be a Savoy 
cabbage ; but yours may be cauliflower, as a rather 
more delicate variety. Your physical man will be trans- 
muted into salt beef and fried pork, at the rate, I should 
imagine, of a pound and a half a day; that being 
about the average which we find necessary in the 
kitchen. You will make your toilet for the day (still 
like this delightful Silas Foster) by rinsing your fingers 
and the front part of your face in a little tin-pan of water 
at the door-step, and teasing your hair with a wooden 
pocket-comb before a seven-by-nine-inch looking-glass. 



A MODERN ARCADIA. 81 

Your only pastime will be to smoke some very vile 
tobacco in the black stump of a pipe." 

" Pray, spare me ! " cried I. *' But the pipe is not 
Silas's only mode of solacing himself with the weed." 

" Your literature," continued Zenobia,Vpparently de- 
lighted with her description, "will be the Farmer's 
Almanac ; for I observe our friend Foster never gets so 
far as the newspaper. When you happen to sit down, 
at odd moments, you will fall asleep, and make nasal 
proclamation of the fact, as he does ; and invariably you 
must be jogged out of a nap, after supper, by the future 
Mrs. Coverdale, and persuaded to go regularly to bed. 
And on Sundays, when you put on a blue coat with 
brass buttons, you will think of nothing else to do, Kut to 
go and lounge over the stone walls and rail fences, and 
stare at the corn growing. And you will look with a know- 
ing eye at oxen, and will have a tendency to clamber 
over into pig-sties, and feel of the hogs, and give a guess 
how much they will weigh after you shall have stuck 
and dressed them. Already I have noticed you begin 
to speak through your nose, and with a drawl. Pray, if 
you really did make any poetry to-day, let us hear it 
in that kind of utterance ! " 

" Coverdale has given up making verses now," said 
Rollings worth, who never had the slightest appreciation 
of my poetry. "Just think of him penning a sonnet 
with a fist like that ! There is at least thi^ good in a 
life of toil, that it takes the nonsense and fancy-work out 
of a man, and leaves nothing but what truly belongs to 
him. If a farmer can make poetry at the plough-tail, it 
must be because his nature insists on it ; and if that be 
tlie case, let him make it, in Heaven's name ! " 
6 



82 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" And how is it with you ? " asked Zenobia, in a dif- 
ferent voice ; for she never laughed at HoUingsworth, 
as she often did at me. "You, I think, cannot have 
ceased to live a life of thought and feeling." 

" I have alvfays been in earnest," answered HoUings- 
worth. " I have hammered thought out of iron, after 
heating the iron in my heart ! It matters little what 
my outward toil may be. Were I a slave at the bottom 
of a mine, I should keep the same purpose, the same 
faith in its ultimate accomplishment, that I do now. 
Miles Coverdale is not in earnest, either as a poet or a 
laborer." 

" You give me hard measure, HoUingsworth," said 
I, a little hurt. "I have kept pace with you in the field; 
and my bones feel as if I had been in earnest, what- 
ever may be the case with my brain ! " 

" I cannot conceive," observed Zenobia, with great 
emphasis, — and, no doubt, she spoke fairly the feeling 
of the moment, — "I cannot conceive of being so con- 
tinually as Mr. Coverdale is within the sphere of a 
strong and noble nature, without being strengthened 
and ennobled by its influence !" 

This amiable remark of the fair Zenobia confirmed 
me in what I had already begun to suspect, that Hol- 
lingsworth, like many other illustrious prophets, reform- 
ers and philanthropists, was likely to make at least two 
proselytes among the women to one among the men. 
Zenobia and Priscilla ! These, I believe (unless my 
unworthy self might be reckoned for a third), were the 
only disciples of his mission; and I spent a great deal of 
time, uselessly, in trying to conjecture what HoUings- 
worth meant to do with them — and they with him ! 



IX. 

HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 

It is not, I apprehend, a healthy kind of mental 
occupation, to devote ourselves too exclusively to the 
study of individual men and women. If the person 
under examination be one's self, the result is pretty 
certain to be diseased action of the heart, almost before 
we can snatch a second glance. Or, if we take the 
freedom to put a friend under our microscope, we 
thereby insulate him from many of his true relations, 
magnify his peculiarities, inevitably tear him into parts, 
and, of course, patch him very clumsily together again. 
What wonder, then, should we be frightened by the 
aspect of a monster, which, after all, — though we can 
point to every feature of his deformity in the real per- 
sonage, — may be said to have been created mainly by 
ourselves. 

Thus, as my conscience has often whispered me, I 
did Hollingsworth a great wrong by prying into his 
character ; and am perhaps doing him as great a one, at 
this moment, by putting faith in the discoveries which I 
seemed to make. But I could not help it. Had I loved 
him less, I might have used him better. He — and 
Zenobia and Priscilla, both for their own sakes and as 
connected with him — were separated from the rest of 
the Community, to my imagination, and stood forth as 
the indices of a problem which it was my business to 



84 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

solve. Other associates had a portion of my time ; 
other matters amused me ; passing occurrences carried 
me along with them, while they lasted. But here was 
the vortex of my meditations around which they 
revolved, and whitherward they too continually tended. 
In the midst of cheerful society, I had often a feeling 
of loneliness. For it was impossible not to be sensible 
that, while these three characters figured so largely on 
my private theatre, I — though probably reckoned as a 
friend by all — was at best but a secondary or tertiary 
personage with either of them. 

I loved Hollingsworth, as has already been enough 
expressed. But it impressed me, more and more, that 
there was a stern and dreadful peculiarity in this man, 
such as could not prove otherwise than pernicious to 
the happiness of those who should be drawn into too 
intimate a connection with him. He was not altogether 
human. There was something else in ,Hollingsworth 
besides flesh and blood, and* sympathies and affections, 
and celestial spirit. 

This is always true of those men who have surren- 
dered themselves to an overruling purpose. It does 
not so much impel them from without, nor even operate 
as a motive power within, but grows incorporate with 
all that they think and feel, and finally converts them 
into little else save that one principle. When such 
begins to be the predicament, it is not cowardice, but 
wisdom, to avoid these victims. They have no heart, 
no sympathy, no reason, no conscience. They will 
keep no friend, unless he make himself the mirror of 
their purpose ; they will smite and slay you, and trample 
your dead corpse under foot, all the more readily, if you 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 85 

take the first step with them, and cannot take the 
second, and the third, and every other step of their ter- 
ribly straight path. They have an idol, to which they 
consecrate themselves high-priest, and deem it holy work 
to offer sacrifices of whatever is most precious ; and never 
once seem to suspect — so cunning has the devil been 
with them — that this false deity, in whose iron features, 
immitigable to all the rest of mankind, they see only 
benignity and love, is but a spectrum of the very priest 
himself, projected upon the surrounding darkness. And 
the higher and purer the original object, and the more 
unselfishly it may have been taken up, the slighter is 
the probability that they can be led to recognize the pro- 
cess by which godlike benevolence has been debased 
into all-devouring egotism. 

Of course, I am perfectly aware that the above state- 
ment is exaggerated, in the attempt to make it adequate. 
Professed philanthropists have gone far ; but no origin- 
ally good man, I presume, ever went quite so far as 
this. Let the reader abate whatever he deems fit. The 
paragraph may remain, however, both for its truth and 
its exaggeration, as strongly expressive of the tendencies 
which were really operative in Hollings worth, and as 
exemplifying the kind of error into which my mode of 
observation was calculated to lead me. The issue w^as, 
that in solitude I often shuddered at my friend. In my 
recollection of his dark and impressive countenance, the 
features grew more sternly prominent than the reality, 
duskier in their depth and shadow, and more lurid in 
their light ; the frown, that had merely flitted across his 
brow, seemed to have contorted it with an adamantine 
wrinkle. On meeting him again, I was often filled with 



8©' 



THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 



remorse, when his deep eyes beamed kindly upon me, as 
with the glow of a household fire that was burning in ^. 
cave. " He is a man, after all," thought I ; "his Maky 
er's own truest image, a philanthropic man ! — not that^ 
steel engine of the devil's contrivance, a philanthropist ! '* 
But in my wood-walks, and in my silent chamber, the 
dark face frowned at me again. 

When a young girl comes within the sphere of such a 
man, she is as perilously situated as the maiden whom, 
in the old classical myths, the people used to expose to a 
dragon. If I had any duty whatever, in reference to 
Hoi lings worth, it was to endeavor to save Priscilla from 
that kind of personal worship wh ich her s ex is generally 
prone to lavish upon sainl5~Trfi3Tieroes. Itof fcn rcqu rf^ 
but one smile out of the hero's eyes into the girl's or 
woman's heart, to transform this devotion, from a senti- 
ment of the highest approval and confidence, into pas- 
sionate love. Now, Hollingsworth smiled much upon 
Priscilla, — more than upon any other person. If she 
thought him beautiful, it was no wonder. I often 
thought him so, with the expression of tender human 
care and gentlest sympathy which she alone seemed to 
have power to call out upon his features. Zenobia, I 
suspect, would have given her eyes, bright as they were, 
for such a look ; — it was the least that our poor Pris- 
cilla could do, to give her heart for a great many of 
them. There was the miore danger of this, inasmuch as 
the footing on which we all associated at Blithedale was 
widely different from that of conventional society. 
While inclining us to the soft affections of the golden 
age, it seemed to authorize any individual, of either sex, 
to fall in love with any other, regardless of what would 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 87 

elsewhere be judged suitable and prudent. Accordingly, 
the tender passion was very rife among us, in various 
degrees of mildness or virulence, but mostly passing 
away with the state of things that had given it origin. 
This was all well enough ; but, for a girl like Priscilla 
and a woman like Zenobia to jostle one another in their 
love of a man like Hollingsworth, was likely to be no 
child's play. 

Had I been as cold-hearted as I sometimes thought 
myself, nothing would have interested me more than to 
witness the play of passions that must thus have been 
evolved. But, in honest truth, I would really have gone 
far to save Priscilla, at least, from the catastrophe in 
which such a drama would be apt to terminate. 

Priscilla had now grown to be a very pretty girl, and 
still kept budding and blossoming, and daily putting on 
some new charm, which you no sooner became sensible 
of than you thought it worth all that she had previously 
possessed, l So unformed, vague, and without substance, 
as she had come to us, it seemed as if we could see 
Nature shaping out a woman before our very eyes, and 
yet had only a more reverential sense of the mystery of 
a woman's soul and frame.'^ Yesterday, her cheek was 
pale, — to-day, it had a bloom. Priscilla's smile, like a 
baby's first one, was a wondrous novelty. Her imperfec- 
tions and short-comings affected me with a kind of playful 
pathos, which was as absolutely bewitching a sensation 
as ever I experienced. After she had been a month or 
two at Blithedale, her animal spirits waxed high, and 
kept her pretty constantly in a state of bubble and fer- 
ment, impelling her to far more bodily activity than she 
had yet strength to endure. She was very fond of play- 



88 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

ing with the other girls out of doors. There is hardly 
another sight in the world so pretty as that of a com- 
pany of young girls, almost women grown, at play, and 
so giving themselves up to their airy impulse that their 
tiptoes barely touch the ground. 

Girls are incomparably wildertbttdr-^ixiore effervgsceiit 
than boys, more untamable, and regardless of rule and 
limit, with an ever-shifting variety, breaking continually 
into new modes of fun, yet with a harmonious propriety 
through all. Their^jsleps, their voices, appear free as 
the wind, but keep consonance"~wil!r^a^trairrof~Tnusic 
inaudible to us. Young men and boys, on the other 
hand, play, according to recognized law, old, tradition- 
ary games, permitting no caprioles of fancy, but with 
scope enough for the outbreak of savage instincts. For, 
young or old, in play or in earnest, man is prone to be 
a brute. 

Especially is it delightful to see a vigorous young girl 
run a race, with her head thrown back, her limbs mov- 
ing more friskily than they need, and an air between that 
of a bird and a young colt. But Priscilla's peculiar 
charm, in a foot-race, was the weakness and irregularity 
with which she ran. Growing up without exercise, 
except to her poor little fingers, she had never yet 
acquired the perfect use of her legs. Setting buoyantly 
forth, therefore, as if no rival less swift than Atalanta 
could compete with her, she ran falteringly, and often 
tumbled on the grass. Such an incident — though it 
seems too slight to think of — was a thing to laugh at, 
but which brought the water into one's eyes, and lingered 
in the memory after far greater joys and sorrows were 
swept out of it, as antiquated trash. Priscilla's life, as 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 89 

I beheld it, was full of trifles that affected me in just this 
way. 

When she had come to be quite at home among us, 
I used to fancy that Priscilla played more pranks, and 
perpetrated more mischief, than any other girl in the 
Community. For example, I once heard Silas Foster, 
in a very gruff voice, threatening to rivet three horse- 
shoes round Priscilla's neck and chain her to a post, 
because she, with some other young people, had clamb- 
ered upon a load of hay, and caused it to slide off the 
cart. How she made her peace I never knew ; but very 
soon afterwards I saw old Silas, with his brawny hands 
round Priscilla's waist, swinging her to and fro, and 
finally depositing her on one of the oxen, to take her 
first lessons in riding. She met with terrible mishaps 
in her efforts to milk a cow ; she let the poultry into the 
garden ; she generally spoilt whatever part of the dinner 
she took in charge ; she broke crockery ; she dropt our 
biggest pitcher into the well ; and — except with her 
needle, and those little wooden instruments for purse- 
making — was as unserviceable a member of society as 
any young lady in the land. There was no other sort 
of efficiency about her. Yet everybody was kind to 
Priscilla ; everybody loved her and laughed at her to her 
face, and did not laugh behind her back. ; everybody 
would have given her half of his last crust, or the bigger 
share of his plum-cake. These were pretty certain indi- 
cations that we were all conscious of a pleasant weak- 
ness in the girl, and considered her not quite able to 
look after her own interests, or fight her battle with the 
world. And HoUingsworth — perhaps because he had 
been the means of introducing Priscilla to her new 



^0 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

abode — appeared to recognize her as his own especial 
charge. 

Her simple, careless, childish flow of spirits often 
made me sad. She seemed to me like a butterfly at 
play in a flickering bit of sunshine, and mistaking it for 
a broad and eternal summer. We sometimes hold mirth 
to a stricter accountability than sorrow ; — it must show 
good cause, or the echo of its laughter comes back 
drearily. Priscilla's gayety, moreover, was of a nature 
that showed me how delicate an instrument she was, 
and what fragile harp-strings were her nerves. As they 
made sweet music at the airiest touch, it w^ould require 
but a stronger one to burst them all asunder. Absurd 
as it might be, I tried to reason with her, and persuade 
her not to be so joyous, thinking that, if she would draw 
less lavishly upon her fund of happiness, it would last 
the longer. I remember doing so, one summer evening, 
when we tired laborers sat looking on, like Goldsmith's 
old folks under the village thorn-tree, while the young 
people were at their sports. 

" What is the use or sense of being so very gay ? " I 
said to Priscilla, while she was taking breath, after a 
great frolic. " I love to see a sufficient cause for every- 
thing ; and I can see none for this. Pray tell me, now, 
what kind of a world you imagine this to be, which you 
are so merry in." 

" I never think about it at all," answered Priscilla, 
laughing. " But this I am sure of, that it is a world 
where everybody is kind to me, and where I love every- 
body. My heart keeps dancing within me, and all the 
foolish things which you see me do are only the 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 91 

motions of my heart. How can I be dismal, if my heart 
will not let me ? " 

" Have you nothing- dismal to remember ? " I sug- 
gested. " If not, then, indeed, you are very fortu- 
nate ! " 

" Ah ! " said Priscilla, slowly. 

And then came that unintelligible gesture, when she 
seemed to be listening to a distant voice. 

" For my part," I continued, beneficently seeking to 
overshadow her with my own sombre humor, " my past 
life has been a tiresome one enough ; yet I would rather 
look baclavard ten times than forward once. For, little 
as we know of our life to come, we may be very sure, for 
one thing, that the good we aim at will not be attained. 
People never do get just the good they seek. If it come 
at all, it is something else, which they never dreamed 
of, and did not particularly want. Then, again, we 
m„ay rest certain that our friends of to-day will not be 
our friends of a few years hence ; but, if we keep one of 
them, it will be at the expense of the others ; and, most 
probably, we shall keep none. To be sure, there are 
more to be had ; but who cares about making a new set 
of friends, even should they be better than those around 
us?" 

" Not I ! " said Priscilla. " I will live and die with 
these ! " 

" Well ; but let the future go," resumed I. " As for 
the present moment, if we could look into the hearts 
where we wish to be most valued, what should you 
expect to see ? One's own likeness, in the innermost, 
holiest niche ? Ah ! I don't know ! It may not be there 
at all. It may be a dusty image, thrust aside into a 



92 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

comer, and by and by to be flung out of doors, where 
any foot may trample upon it. If not to-day, then to- 
morrow ! And so, Priscilla, I do not see much wisdom 
in being so very merry in this kind of a world." 

It had taken me nearly seven years of w^orldly life to 
hive up the bitter honey which I here offered to Priscilla. 
And she rejected it ! 

" I don't believe one word of what you say ! " she 
replied, laughing anew. " You made me sad, for a 
minute, by talking about the past ; but the past never 
comes back again. Do we dream the same dream 
twice ? There is nothing else that I am afraid of." 

So away she ran, and fell down on the green grass, 
as it was often her luck to do, but got up again, without 
any harm. 

" Priscilla, Priscilla ! " cried Hollingsworth, who was 
sitting on the door-step ; " you had better not run any 
more to-night. You will weary yourself too much. 
And do not sit down out of doors, for there is a heavy 
dew beginning to fall." 

At his first word, she went and sat down under the 
porch, at Hollingsworth's feet, entirely contented and 
happy. What charm was there in his rude massiveness 
that so attracted and soothed this shadow-like girl ? It 
appeared to me, who have always been curious in such 
matters, that Priscilla's vague and seemingly causeless 
flow of felicitous feeling was that with which love blesses 
inexperienced hearts, before they begin to suspect what 
is going on within them. It transports them to the 
seventh heaven ; and, if you ask what brought them 
thither, they neither can tell nor care to learn, but 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 93 

cherish an eestatic faith that there they shall abide for- 
ever. 

Zenobia was in the door-way, not far from Hollings- 
worth. She gazed at Priscilla in a very singular way. 
Indeed, it was a sight worth gazing at, and a beautiful 
sight, too, as the fair girl sat at the feet of that dark, 
powerful figure. Her air, while perfectly modest, deli- 
cate and virgin-like, denoted her as swayed by Hol- 
lingsworth, attracted to him, and unconsciously seeking 
to rest upon his strength. I could not turn away my 
own eyes, but hoped that nobody, save Zenobia and 
myself, were witnessing this picture. It is before me 
now, with the evening twilight a little deepened by the 
dusk of memory. 

" Come hither, Priscilla," said Zenobia. " I have 
something to say to you." 

She spoke in little more than a whisper. But it is 
strange how expressive of moods a whisper may often 
be. Priscilla felt at once that something had gone 
wrong. 

"Are you angry with me?" she asked, rising slowly, 
and standing before Zenobia in a drooping attitude. 
" What have I done ? I hope you are not angry ! " 

" No, no, Priscilla ! " said Hollingsworth, smiling. " I 
will answer for it, she is not. You are the one little 
person in the world with whom nobody can be angry ! " 

"Angry with you, child? What a silly idea!" 
exclaimed Zenobia, laughing. " No, indeed ! But, my 
dear Priscilla, you are getting to be so very pretty that 
you absolutely need a duenna ; and, as I am older than 
you, and have had my own little experience of life, and 
think myself exceedingly sage, I intend to fill the place 



94 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

of a maiden-aunt. Every day, I shall give you a lec- 
ture, a quarter of an hour in length, on the morals, 
manners and proprieties, of social life. When our pas- 
toral shall be quite played out, Priscilla, my worldly 
wisdom may stand you in good stead." 

" I am afraid you are angry with me ! " repeated Pris- 
cilla, sadly; for, while she seemed as impressible as wax, 
the girl often shovved a persistency in her own ideas as 
stubborn as it was gentle. 

" Dear me, what can I say to the child ! " cried Zeno- 
bia, in a tone of humorous vexation. " Well, well ; 
since you insist on my being angry, come to my room, 
this moment, and let me beat you I " 

Zenobia bade Hollingsworth good-night very sweetly, 
and nodded to me with a smile. But, just as she 
turned aside with Priscilla into the dimness of the 
porch, I caught another glance at her countenance. 
It would have made the fortune of a tragic actress, 
could she have borrowed it for the moment when she 
fumbles in her bosom for the concealed dagger, or the 
exceedingly sharp bodkin, or mingles the ratsbane in 
her lover's bowl of wine or her rival's cup of tea. Not 
that I in the least anticipated any such catastrophe, — 
it being a remarkable truth that custom has in no one 
point a greater sway than over our modes of wreaking 
our wild passions. And, besides, had we been in Italy, 
instead of New England, it was hardly yet a crisis for- 
the dagger or the bowl. 

It often amazed me, however, that Hollingsworth 
should show himself so recklessly tender towards Pris- 
cilla, and never once seem to think of the effect which 
it might have upon her heart. But the man, as I have 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA. 95 

endeavored to explain, was thrown completely off his 
moral balance, and quite bewildered as to his personal 
relations, by his great excrescence of a philanthropic 
scheme. I used to see, or fancy, indications that he was 
not altogether obtuse to Zenobia's influence as a woman. 
No doubt, however, he had a still more exquisite enjoy- 
ment of Priscilla's silent sympathy with his purposes, so 
unalloyed with criticism, and therefore more grateful 
than any intellectual approbation, which always involves 
a possible reserve of latent censure. A man — poet, 
prophet, or whatever he may be — readily persuades 
himself of his right to all the worship that is voluntarily 
tendered. In requital of so rich benefits as he was to 
confer upon mankind, it would have been hard to deny 
Hollingsworth the simple solace of a young girl's heart, 
which he held in his hand, and smelled to, like a rose- 
bud. But what if, while pressing out its fragrance, he 
should crush the tender rosebud in his grasp ! 

As for Zenobia, I saw no occasion to give myself any 
trouble. With her native strength, and her experience 
of the world, she could not be supposed to need any 
help of mine. ' Nevertheless, I was really generous 
enough to feel some little interest likewise for Zenobia. 
With all her faults (which might have been a great 
many, besides the abundance that I knew of), she pos- 
sessed noble traits, and a heart which must at least have 
been valuable while new. And she seemed ready to 
fling it away as uncalculatingly as Priscilla herself. I 
could not but suspect that, if merely at play with Hol- 
lingsworth, she was sporting with a power which she 
did not fully estimate. Or, if in earnest, it might 
chance, between Zenobia's passionate force, and his dark, 



96 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE, 

self-delusive egotism, to turn out such earnest as would 
develop itself in some sufficiently tragic catastrophe, 
though the dagger and the bowl should go for nothing 
in it. 

Meantime, the gossip of the Community set them 
down as a pair of lovers. They took walks together, 
and were not seldom encountered in the wood-paths ; 
HoUingsworth deeply discoursing, in tones solemn and 
sternly pathetic. Zenobia, with a rich glow on her 
cheeks, and her eyes softened from their ordinary bright- 
ness, looked so beautiful, that, had her companion been 
ten times a philanthropist, it seemed impossible but 
that one glance should melt him back into a man. 
Oftener than anywhere else, they went to a certain 
point on the slope of a pasture, commanding nearly the 
whole of our own domain, besides a view of the river, 
and an airy prospect of many distant hills. The bond 
of our Community was such, that the members had the 
privilege of building cottages for their own residence 
within our precincts, thus laying a hearth-stone and 
fencing in a home private and peculiar to all desirable 
extent, while yet the inhabitants should continue to 
share the advantages of an associated life. It was 
inferred that HoUingsworth and Zenobia intended to 
rear their dwelling on this favorite spot. 

I mentioned these rumors to HoUingsworth, in a play- 
ful way. 

** Had you consulted me," I went on to observe, " I 
should have recommended a site further to the left, 
just a little withdrawn into the wood, with two or three 
peeps at the prospect, among the trees. You will be in 
the shady vale of years, long before you can raise any 



HOLLINGSWORTH, ZENOBIA, PRISCILLA 97 

better Kind of shade around your cottage, if you build it 
on this bare slope." 

''But I offer my edifice as a spectacle to the world," 
said Hollingsvvorth, "that it may take example and 
build many another like it. Therefore, I mean to set it 
on the open hill-side." 

Twist these words how I might, they offered no very 
satisfactory import. It seemed hardly probable that 
Hollingsworth should care about educating the public 
taste in the department of cottage architecture, desirable 
as such improvement certainly was. 
7 



X. 

A VISITER FROM TOWN. 

HoLLiNGSWORTH and I — we had been hoeing potatoes, 
that forenoon, while the rest of the fraternity were 
engaged in a distant quarter of the farm — sat under a 
clump of maples, eating our eleven o'clock lunch, when 
we saw a stranger approaching along the edge of the 
field. He had admitted himself from the road-side 
through a turnstile, and seemed to have a purpose ot 
speaking with us. 

And, by the by, we were favored with many visits at 
Blithedale, especially from people who sympathized with 
our theories, and perhaps held themselves ready to unite 
in our actual experiment as soon as there should appear 
a reliable promise of its success. It was rather ludi- 
crous, indeed — (to me, at least, whose enthusiasm had 
insensibly been exhaled, together with the perspiration 
of many a hard day's toil), — it was absolutely funny, 
therefore, to observe what a glory was shed about our 
life and labors, in the imagination of these longing 
proselytes. In their view, we were as poetical as 
V Arcadians, besides being as practical as the hardest- 
fisted husbandmen in Massachusetts. We did not, it is 
true, spend much time in piping to our sheep, or war- 
bling our innocent loves to the sisterhood. But they 
gave us credit for imbuing the ordinary rustic occupa- 
tions with a kind of religious poetry, insomuch that our 



A VISITER FROM TOWN. 9d 

very cow-yar3s and pig-sties were as delightfully fragrant 
as a flower-garden. Nothing used to please me more 
than to see one of these lay enthusiasts snatch up a hoe, 
as they were very prone to do, and set to work with a 
vigor that perhaps carried him through about a dozen 
ill-directed strokes. Men are wonderfully soon satisfied, 
in this day of shameful bodily enervation, when, from 
one end of life to the other, such multitudes never taste 
the sweet weariness that follows accustomed toil. I sel- 
dom saw the new enthusiasm that did not grow as flimsy 
and flaccid as the proselyte's moistened shirt-collar, with 
a quarter of an hour's active labor under a July sun. 

But the person now at hand had not at all the air of 
one of these amiable visionaries. He was an elderly 
man, dressed rather shabbily, yet decently enough, in a 
gray frock-coat, faded towards a brown hue, and wore a 
broad-brimmed white hat, of the fashion of several years 
gone by. His hair was perfect silver, without a dark 
thread in the whole of it ; his nose, though it had a 
scarlet tip, by no means indicated the jollity of which a 
red nose is the generally admitted symbol. He was a 
subdued, undemonstrative old man, who would doubtless 
drink a glass of liquor, now and then, and probably more 
than was good for him ; — not, however, with a purpose 
of undue exhilaration, but in the hope of bringing his 
spirits up to the ordinary level of the world's cheerful- 
ness. Drawing nearer, there was a shy look about him, 
as if he were ashamed of his poverty ; or, at any rate, 
for some reason or other, would rather have us glance 
at him sidelong than take a full front view. He had 
a queer appearance of hiding himself behind the patch 
on his left eye. 



100 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

*'I know this old gentleman," said I to HoUingsworth, 
as we sat observing him; "that is, I have met him a 
hundred times in town, and have often amused my fancy 
with wondering what he was before he came to be what 
he is. He haunts restaurants and such places, and has 
an odd way of lurking in corners or getting behind a 
door, whenever practicable, and holding out his hand, 
with some little article in it which he wishes you to 
buy. The eye of the world seems to trouble him, al- 
though he necessarily lives so much in it. I never 
expected to see him in an open field." 

" Have you learned anything of his history ? " asked 
HoUingsworth. 

"Not a circumstance," I answered ; " but there must 
be something curious in it. I take him to be a harmless 
sort of a person, and a tolerably honest one ; but his 
manners, being so furtive, remind me of those of a rat, 
— a rat without the mischief, the fierce eye, the teeth to 
bite with, or the desire to bite. See, now ! He means 
to skulk along that fringe of bushes, and approach us 
on the other side of our clump of maples." 

We soon heard the old man's velvet tread on the 
grass, indicating that he had arrived within a few feet 
of where we sat. 

"Good-morning, Mr. Moodie," said HoUingsworth, 
addressing the stranger as an acquaintance ; " you must 
have had a hot and tiresome walk from the city. Sit 
down, and take a morsel of our bread and cheese." 

The visiter made a grateful little murmur of acquies- 
cence, and sat down in a spot somewhat removed ; so 
that, glancing round, I could see his gray pantaloons and 
dusty shoes, while his upper part was mostly hidden be- 



A VISITER FROM TOWN. 101 

hind the shrubbery. Nor did he come forth from this 
retirement during the whole of the interview that fol- 
lowed. We handed him such food as we had, together 
with a brown jug of molasses and water (would that it 
had been brandy, or something better, for the sake of his 
chill old heart !), like priests offering dainty sacrifice to an 
enshrined and invisible idol. I have no idea that he 
really lacked sustenance ; but it was quite touching, 
nevertheless, to hear him nibbling away at our crusts." 

" Mr. Moodie," said I, " do you remember selling me 
one of those very pretty little silk purses, of which you 
seem to have a monopoly in the market ? I keep it to 
this day, I can assure you." 

" Ah, thank you," said our guest. " Yes, Mr. Cover- 
dale, I used to sell a good many of those little purses." 

He spoke languidly, and only those few words, like a 
watch with an inelastic spring, that just ticks a moment 
or two, and stops again. He seemed a very forlorn old 
man. In the wantonness of youth, strength, and com- 
fortable condition, — making my prey of people's indi- 
vidualities, as my custom was, — I tried to identify my 
mind with the old fellow's, and take his view of the 
world, as if looking through a smoke-blackened glass at 
the sun. It robbed the landscape of all its life. Those 
pleasantly swelling slopes of our farm, descending towards 
the wide meadows, through which sluggishly circled the 
brimful tide of the Charles, bathing the long sedges on 
its hither and further shores ; the broad, sunny gleam 
over the winding water ; that peculiar picturesqueness 
of the scene where capes and headlands put themselves 
boldly forth upon the perfect level of the meadow, as 
into a green lake, with inlets between the promontories ; 



102 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

the shadowy woodland, with twinkling showers of light 
falling into its depths ; the sultry heat-vapor, which rose 
everywhere like incense, and in which my soul delighted, 
as indicating so rich a fervor in the passionate day, and 
in the earth that was burning with its love ; — I beheld 
all these things as through old Hoodie's eyes. When 
my eyes are dimmer than they have yet come to be, 1 
will go thither again, and see if I did not catch the tone 
of his mind aright, and if the cold and lifeless tint of 
his perceptions be not then repeated in my own. 

Yet it was unaccountable to myself, the interest that I 
felt in him. 

" Have you any objection," said 1, "to telling me who 
made those little purses ? " 

" Gentlemen have often asked me that," said Moodie, 
slowly ; " but I shake my head, and say little or nothing, 
and creep out of the way as well as I can. I am a man 
of few words ; and if gentlemen were to be told one 
thing, they would be very apt, I suppose, to ask me 
another. But it happens, just now, Mr. Coverdale, that 
you can tell me more about the maker of those little 
purses than I can tell you." 

"Why do you trouble him with needless questions, 
Coverdale?" interrupted Hollingsworth. "You must 
have known, long ago, that it was Priscilla. And so, 
my good friend, you have come to see her ? Well, I 
am glad of it. You will find her altered very much for 
the better, since that winter evening when you put her 
into my charge. Why, Priscilla has a bloom in her 
cheeks, now ! " 

" Has my pale little girl a bloom?" repeated Moodie, 
with a kind of slow wonder. " Priscilla with a bloom 



A VISITER FROM TOWN. 103 

in her cheeks ! Ah, I am afraid I shall not know my 
little girl. And is she happy ? " 

" Just as happy as a bird," answered Hollingsworth. 

" Then, gentlemen," said our guest, apprehensively, 
" I don't think it well for me to go any further. I crept 
hitherward only to ask about Priscilla ; and now that 
you have told me such good news, perhaps I can do no 
better than to creep back again. If she were to see this 
old face of mine, the child would remember some very 
sad times which we have spent together. Some very 
sad times, indeed ! She has forgotten them, I know, — 
them and me, — else she could not be so happy, nor 
have a bloom in her cheeks. Yes — yes — yes," con- 
tinued he, still with the same torpid utterance ; " with 
many thanks to you, Mr. Hollingsworth, I will creep 
back to town again." 

" You shall do no such thing, Mr. Moodie," said Hol- 
lingsworth, bluffly. " Priscilla often speaks of you; and 
if there lacks anything to make her cheeks bloom like 
two damask roses, I '11 venture to say it is just the sight 
of your face. Come, — we will go and find her." 

*' Mr. Hollingsworth I " said the old man, in his hesi- 
tating way. 

" Well," answered Hollingsworth. 

** Has there been any call for Priscilla ? " asked 
Moodie ; and though his face was hidden from us, his 
tone gave a sure indication of the mysterious nod and 
wink with which he put the question. " You know, I 
think, sir, what I mean." 

" I have not the remotest suspicion what you mean, 
Mr. Moodie," replied Hollingsworth ; " nobody, to my 
knowledge, has called for Priscilla, except yourself. But, 



104 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

come ; we are losing time, and I have several things to 
say to you by the way." 

" And, Mr. Hollingsworth ! " repeated Moodie. 

" Well, again ! " cried my friend, rather impatiently. 
" What now ? " 

" There is a lady here," said the old man ; and his 
voice lost some of its wearisome hesitation. " You will 
account it a very strange matter for me to talk about ; 
but I chanced to know this lady when she was but a 
little child. If I am rightly informed, she has grown to 
be a very fine woman, and makes a brilliant figure in 
the world, with her beauty, and her talents, and her 
noble way of spending her riches. I should recognize 
this lady, so people tell me, by a magnificent flower in 
her hair." 

"What a rich tinge it gives to his colorless ideas, 
when he speaks of Zenobia ! " I whispered to Hollings- 
worth. " But how can there possibly be any interest or 
connecting link between him and her ? " 

" The old man, for years past," whispered Hollings- 
worth, " has been a little out of his right mind, as you 
probably see." 

" What I would inquire," resumed Moodie, " is, 
whether this beautiful lady is kind to my poor Priscilla." 

" Very kind," said Hollingsworth. 

" Does she love her ? " asked Moodie. 

" It should seem so," answered my friend. " They 
are always together." 

" Like a gentlewoman and her maid-servant, I fancy ? " 
suggested the old man. 

There was something so singular in his way of say- 
ing this, that I could not resist the impulse to turn quite 



A VISITER FROM TOWN. 105 

round, so as ' to catch a glimpse of his face, almost 
imagining that I should see another person than old 
Moodie. But there he sat, with the patched side of his 
face towards me. 

"Like an elder and younger sister, rather," replied 
Hollings worth. 

" Ah ! " said Moodie, more complacently, — for his 
latter tones had harshness and acidity in them, — " it 
would gladden my old heart to witness that. If one 
thing would make me happier than another, Mr. Hol- 
lingsworth, it would be to see that beautiful lady hold- 
ing my little girl by the hand." 

" Come along," said Hollings worth, " and perhaps 
you may." 

After a little more delay on the part of our freakish 
visiter, they set forth together, old Moodie keeping a 
step or two behind Hollings worth, so that the latter 
could not very conveniently look him in the face. I 
remained under the tuft of maples, doing my utmost to 
draw an inference from the scene that had just passed. 
In spite of HoUingsworth's off-hand explanation, it did 
not strike me that our strange guest was really beside 
himself, but only that his mind needed screwing up, like 
an instrument long out of tune, the strings of which 
have ceased to vibrate smartly and sharply. Me thought 
it would be profitable for us, projectors of a happy life, 
to welcome this old gray shadow, and cherish him as 
one of us, and let him creep about our domain, in order 
that he might be a little merrier for our sakes, and we, 
sometimes, a little sadder for his. Human destinies 
look ominous without some perceptible intermixture of 
the sable or the gray. And then, too, should any of our 



106 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE, 

fraternity grow feverish with an over-exuhing sense of 
prosperity, it would be a sort of cooling regimen to slink 
off into the woods, and spend an hour, or a day, or as 
many days as might be requisite to the cure, in uninter- 
rupted communion with this deplorable old Moodie ! 

Going homeward to dinner, I had a glimpse of him, 
behind the trunk of a tree, gazing earnestly towards a 
particular window of the farm-house ; and, by and by, 
Priscilla appeared at this window, playfully drawing 
along Zenobia, who looked as bright as the very day 
that was blazing down upon us, only not, by many 
degrees, so well advanced towards her noon. I was 
convinced that this pretty sight must have been pur- 
posely arranged by Priscilla for the old man to see. 
But either the girl held her too long, or her fondness 
was resented as too great a freedom ; for Zenobia sud- 
denly put Priscilla decidedly away, and gave her a 
haughty look, as from a mistress to a dependant. Old 
Moodie shook his head; and again and again I saw 
him shake it, as he withdrew along the road ; and, at 
the last point whence the farm-house was visible, he 
turned, and shook his uplifted staff. 



Xl. 

THE WOOD-PATH. 

Not long after the preceding incident, in order to get 
the ache of too constant labor out of my bones, and to 
relieve mj spirit of the irksomeness of a settled routine, 
I took a holiday. It was my purpose to spend it, all 
alone, from breakfast-time till twilight, in the deepest 
wood-seclusion that lay anywhere around us. Though 
fond of society, I was so constituted as to need these 
occasional retirements, even in a life like that of Blithe- 
dale, which was itself characterized by a remoteness 
from the world. Unless jene wed by a yet further with- 
drawal towards the inneLcircle of self-conimunion, I lost 
the better part of my individuality. My thoughts be- 
came of little worth, and my sensibilities grew as arid 
as a tuft of moss (a thing whose life is in the shade, the 
rain, or the noontide dew), crumbling in the sunshine, 
after long expectance of a shower. So, with my heart 
full of a drowsy pleasure, and cautious not to dissipate 
my mood by previous intercourse with any one, I hurried 
away, and was soon pacing a wood-path, arched over 
head with boughs, and dusky-brown beneath my feet. 

At first, I walked very swiftly, as if the heavy flood- 
tide of social life were roaring at my heels, and would 
outstrip and overwhelm me, without all the better dili- 
gence in my escape. But, threading the more distant 
windings of the track, I abated my pace, and looked 



108 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

about me for some side-aisle, that should admit me into 
the innermost sanctuary of this green cathedral, just as, 
in human acquaintanceship, a casual opening sometimes 
lets us, all of a sudden, into the long-sought intimacy of 
a mysterious heart. So much was I absorbed in my 
reflections, — or, rather, in my mood, the substance of 
which was as yet too shapeless to be called thought, — 
that footsteps rustled on the leaves, and a figure passed 
me by, almost without impressing either the sound or 
sight upon my consciousness. 

A moment afterwards, I heard a voice at a little dis- 
tance behind me, speaking so sharply and impertinently 
that it made a complete discord with my spiritual state, 
and caused the latter to vanish as abruptly as when 
you thrust a finger into a soap-bubble. 

" Halloo, friend ! " cried this most unseasonable voice. 
" Stop a moment, I say ! I must have a word with 
you!" 

I turned about, in a humor ludicrously irate. In the 
first place, the interruption, at any rate, was a grievous 
injury; then, the tone displeased me. And, finally, 
unless there be real affection in his heart, a man cannot, 
— such is the bad state to which the world has brought 
itself, — cannot more effectually show his contempt for 
a brother-mortal, nor more gallingly assume a position 
of superiority, than by addressing him as "friend." 
Especially does the misapplication of this phrase bring 
out that lati nt hostility which is sure to animate peculiar 
sects, and those who, with however generous a purpose, 
have sequestered themselves from the crowd; a feeling, 
it is true, which may be hidden in some dog-kennel of 
the heart, grumbling there in the darkness, but is never 



THE WOOD-PATH. 109 

quite extinct, until the dissenting party have gained 
power and scope enough to treat the world generously. 
For my part, I should have taken it as far less an insult 
to be styled "fellow," "clown," or "bumpkin." To 
either of these appellations my rustic garb (it was a 
linen blouse, with checked shirt and striped pantaloons, 
a chip-hat on my head, and a rough hickory-stick in rrij 
hand) very fairly entitled me. As the case stood, my 
temper darted at once to the opposite pole ; not friend, 
but enemy ! 

" What do you want with me ? " said I, facing about. 

" Come a little nearer, friend," said the stranger, 
beckoning. 

" No," answered I. " If I can do anything for you, 
without too much trouble to myself, say so. But 
recollect, if you please, that you are not speaking to an 
acquaintance, much less a friend ! " 

" Upon my word, I believe not ! " retorted he, looking 
at me with some curiosity ; and, lifting his hat, he made 
me a salute which had enough of sarcasm to be offens- 
ive, and just enough of doubtful courtesy to render any 
resentment of it absurd. " But I ask your pardon ! I 
recognize a little mistake. If I may take the liberty to 
suppose it, you, sir, are probably one of the aesthetic — 
or shall I rather say ecstatic ? — laborers, who have 
planted themselves hereabouts. This is your forest of 
Arden ; and you are either the banished Duke in person, 
or one of the chief nobles in his train. The melancholy 
Jacques, perhaps? Be it so. In that case, you can 
probably do me a favor." 

I never, in my life, felt less inclined to confer a favor 
on any man. 



110 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" I am busy," said I. 

So unexpectedly had the stranger made me sensible 
of his presence, that he had ahnost the effect of an ap- 
parition; and certainly a less appropriate one (taking 
into view the dim woodland solitude about us) than if 
the salvage man of antiquity, hirsute and cinctured with 
a. leafy girdle, had started out of a thicket. He was 
still young, seemingly a little under thirty, of a tall and 
well-developed figure, and as handsome a man as ever I 
beheld. The style of his beauty, however, though a 
masculine style, did not at all commend itself to my 
taste. His countenance — I hardly know how to de- 
scribe the peculiarity — had an indecorum in it, a kind 
of rudeness, a hard, coarse, forth-putting freedom of 
expression, which no degree of external polish could 
have abated one single jot. Not that it was vulgar. 
But he had no fineness of nature ; there was in his eyes 
(although they might have artifice enough of another 
sort) the naked exposure of something that ought not to 
be left prominent. With these vague allusions to what 
I have seen in other faces, as well as his, I leave the 
quality to be comprehended best — because with an intu- 
itivgj;epugnance — by those who possess least of it. 
[llis hair, as well as his beard and mustache, was 
coal-black; his eyes, too, were black and sparkling, and 
his teeth remarkably brilliant. He was rather care- 
lessly but well and fashionably dressed, in a summer- 
morning costume. There was a gold chain, exquisitely 
wrought, across his vest. I never saw a smoother or 
whiter gloss than that upon his shirt-bosom, which had 
a pin in it, set with a gem that glimmered, in the leafy 
shadow where he stood, like a living tip of fire. He 



THE WOOD-PATH. Ill 

carried a stick with a wooden head, carved in vivid im- 
itation of -that of a serpent. I hated him, partly, I do 
believe, from a comparison of my own homely garb with 
his well-ordered foppishness.J| 

" Well, sir," said I, a little ashamed of my first irrita- 
tion, but still with no waste of civility, " be pleased to 
speak at once, as I have my own business in hand." 

" I regret that my mode of addressing you was a little 
unfortunate," said the stranger, smiling ; for he seemed 
a very acute sort of person, and saw, in some degree, 
how I stood affected towards him. " I intended no 
offence, and shall certainly comport myself with due cer- 
emony hereafter. I merely wish to make a few inquiries 
respecting a lady, formerly of my acquaintance, who is 
now resident in your Community, and, I believe, largely 
concerned in your social enterprise. You call her, I 
think, Zenobia." 

"That is her name in literature," observed I; "a 
name, too, which possibly she may permit her private 
friends to know and address her by, — but not one which 
they feel at liberty to recognize when used of her, per- 
sonally, by a stranger or casual acquaintance." 

" Indeed ! " answered this disagreeable person ; and 
he turned aside his face for an instant with a brief laugh, 
which struck me as a note-worthy expression of his 
character. " Perhaps I might put forward a claim, on 
your own grounds, to call the lady by a name so appro- 
priate to her splendid qualities. But I am willing to 
know her by any cognomen that you may suggest." 

Heartily wishing that he would be either a little more 
offensive, or a good deal less so, or break off our inter- 
course altogether, I mentioned Zenobia's real name. 



112 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

"True," said he; "and, in general society, I have 
never heard her called otherwise. And, after all, our 
discussion of the point has been gratuitous. My object 
is only to inquire when, where and how, this lady naay 
most conveniently be seen." 

" At her present residence, of course," I replied. 
"You have but to go thither and ask for her. This 
very path will lead you within sight of the house ; so I 
wish you good-morning." 

" One moment, if you please," said the stranger. 
" The course you indicate would certainly be the proper 
one, in an ordinary morning call. But my business is 
private, personal, and somewhat peculiar. Now, in a 
community like this, I should judge that any little occur- 
rence is likely to be discussed rather more minutely than 
would quite suit my views. I refer solely to myself, 
you understand, and without intimating that it w^ould 
be other than a matter of entire indifference to the lady. 
In short, I especially desire to see her in private. If her 
habits are such as I have known them, she is probably 
often to be met with in the woods, or by the river-side ; 
and I think you could do me the favor to point out some 
favorite walk where, about this hour, I might be fortu- 
nate enough to gain an interview." 

I reflected that it would be quite a supererogatory piece 
of Quixotism in me to undertake the guardianship of Zeno- 
bia, who, for my pains, would only make me the butt of 
endless ridicule, should the fact ever come to her knowl- 
edge. I therefore described a spot which, as often as 
any other, was Zenobia's resort at this period of the 
day; nor was it so remote from the farm-house as to 



THE WOOD-FATH. 113 



leave her in much peril, whatever might be the stranger's 
character. - 

" A single word more," said he ; and his black eyes 
sparkled at me, whether with fun or malice I knew not, 
but certainly as if the devil w^ere peeping out of them.' 
*' Among your fraternity, I understand, there is a certain 
holy and benevolent blacksmith ; a man of iron, in more 
senses than one; a rough, cross-grained, w^ell-meaning 
individual, rather boorish in his manners, as might be 
expected, and by no means of the highest intellectual 
cultivation. He is a philanthropical lecturer, with two 
or three disciples, and a scheme of his own, the prelim- 
inary step in which involves a large purchase of land, and 
the erection of a spacious edifice, at an expense consid- 
erably beyond his means ; inasmuch as these are to be 
reckoned in copper or old iron much more conveniently 
than in gold or silver. He hammers away upon his one 
topic as lustily as ever he did upon a horse-shoe ! Do 
you know such a person ? " 

I shook my head, and was turning away. 

" Our friend," he continued, " is described to me as a 
brawny, shaggy, grim and ill-favored personage, not par- 
ticularly well calculated, one would say, to insinuate 
himself with the softer sex. Yet, so far has this honest 
fellow succeeded with one lady whom we wot of, that he 
anticipates, from her abundant resources, the necessary 
funds for realizing his plan in brick and mortar ! " 

Here the stranger seemed to be so much amused with 
his sketch of Hollingsworth's character and purposes, 
that he burst into a fit of merriment, of the same na- 
ture as the brief, metallic laugh, already alluded to, 
but immensely prolonged and enlarged. In the excess 
8 



114 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

of his delight, he opened his mouth wide, and disclosed 
a gold band around the upper part of his teeth, thereby 
making it apparent that every one of his brilliant grind- 
ers and incisors was a sham. This discovery affected 
xne very oddly. I felt as if the whole man were a moral 
and physical humbug ; his wonderful beauty of face, for 
aught I knew, might be removable like a mask ; and, 
tall and comely as his figure looked, he was perhaps bat 
a wizened little elf, gray and decrepit, with nothing gen- 
uine about him, save the wicked expression of his grin. 
The fantasy of his spectral character so wrought upon 
me, together with the contagion of his strange mirth on 
my sympathies, that I soon began to laugh as loudly as 
himself. 

By and by, he paused all at once; so suddenly, 
indeed, that my oAvn cachinnation lasted a moment 
longer. 

" Ah, excuse me ! " said he. " Our interview seems to 
proceed more merrily than it began." 

" It ends here," answered I. " And I take shame to 
myself, that my folly has lost me the right of resenting 
your ridicule of a friend." 

" Pray allow me," said the stranger, approaching a step 
nearer, and laying his gloved hand on my sleeve. *' One 
other favor I must ask of you. You have a young person, 
here at Blithedale, of whom I have heard, — whom, per- 
haps, I have known, — and in whom, at all events, I take a 
peculiar interest. She is one of those delicate, nervous 
young creatures, not uncommon in New England, and 
whom I suppose to have become what we find them by 
J the gradual refining away of the physical system 
among your women. Some philosophers choose to glo- 



THE WOOD-PATH. 115 

rify this habit of body by terming it spiritual ; but, in my 
opinion, it- is rather the effect of ^unwholesome food, bad 
air, lack of out-door exercise, and neglect of bathing, on 
the part of these damsels and their female progenitors, 
all resulting in a kind of hereditary dyspepsia. Zenobia, 
even with her uncomfortable surplus of vitality, is far 
the better model of womanhood. But — to revert again 
to this young person — she goes among you by the name 
of Priscilla. Could you possibly afford me the means of 
speaking with her ? " 

" You have made so many inquiries of me," I observed, 
" that I may at least trouble you with one. What is 
your name ? " 

He offered me a card, with " Professor Westervelt " 
engraved on it. At the same time, as if to vindicate his 
claim to the professorial dignity, so often assumed on 
very questionable grounds, he put on a pair of spectacles, 
which so altered the character of his face that I hardly 
knew him again. But I liked the present aspect no 
better than the former one. 

" I must decline any further connection with your 
affairs," said I, drawing back. " I have told you where 
to find Zenobia. As for Priscilla, she has closer friends 
than myself, through whom, if they see fit, you can gain 
access to her." 

"In that case," returned the Professor, ceremoniously 
raising his hat, " good-morning to you." 

He took his departure, and was soon out of sight 
among the windings of the wood-path. But, after a 
little reflection, I could not help regretting that I had so 
peremptorily broken off the interview, while the stranger 
seemed inclined to continue it. His evident knowledge 



116 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

of matters affecting my three friends might have led to 
disclosures, or inferences, that would perhaps have been 
serviceable. I was particularly struck with the fact that, 
ever since the appearance of Priscilla, it had been the 
tendency of events to suggest and establish a connection 
between Zenobia and her. She had come, in the first 
instance, as if with the sole purpose of claiming Zeno- 
bia's protection. Old Hoodie's visit, it appeared, was 
chiefly to ascertain whether this object had been accom- 
plished. And here, to-day, was the questionable Pro- 
fessor, linking one with the other in his inquiries, and 
seeking communication with both. 

Meanwhile, my inclination for a ramble having been 
balked, I lingered in the vicinity of the farm, with per- 
haps a vague idea that some new event would grow out 
of Westervelt's proposed interview with Zenobia. My 
own part in these transactions was singularly subordi- 
nate. It resembled that of the Chorus in a classic play, 
which seems to be set aloof from the possibility of per- 
sonal concernment, and bestows the whole measure of its 
hope or fear, its exultation or sorrow, on the fortunes of 
others, between whom and itself this sympathy is the 
only bond. Destiny, it may be, — the most skilful of 
stage-managers, — seldom chooses to arrange its scenes, 
and carry forward its drama, without securing the pres- 
ence of at least one calm observer. It is his office to 
give applause when due, and sometimes an inevitable 
tear, to detect the final fitness of incident to character, 
and distil in his long-brooding thought the whole moral- 
ity of the performance. 

Not to be out of the way, in case there were need of 
me in my vocation, and, at the same time, to avoid 



THE WOOD-PATH. 117 

thrusting- myself where neither destiny nor mortals 
might desire my presence, I remained pretty near the 
verge of the woodlands. My position was off the track 
of Zenobia's customary walk, yet not so remote but that 
a recognized occasion might speedily have brought me 
thither. 



XII. 

CO^^RDALE'S HERMITAGE. 

Long since, in this part of our circumjacent wood, I 
had found out for myself a little hermitage. It was a 
kind of leafy cave, high upward into the air, among the 
midmost branches of a white-pine tree. A wild grape- 
vine, of unusual size and luxuriance, had twined and 
twisted itself up into the tree, and, after wreathing the 
entanglement of its tendrils almost around every bough, 
had caught hold of three or four neighboring trees, and 
married the whole clump with a perfectly inextricable 
knot of polygamy. Once, while sheltering myself from 
a summer shower, the fancy had taken me to clamber up 
into this seemingly impervious mass of foliage. The 
branches yielded me a passage, and closed again beneath, 
as if only a squirrel or a bird had passed. Far aloft, 
around the stem of the central pine, behold a perfect nest 
for Robinson Crusoe or King Charles ! A hollow cham- 
ber of rare seclusion had been formed by the decay of 
some of the pine branches, which the vine had lovingly 
strangled with its embrace, burying them from the light 
of day in an aerial sepulchre of its own leaves. It cost 
me but little ingenuity to enlarge the interior, and open 
loop-holes through the verdant walls. Had it ever been 
my fortune to spend a honey-moon, I should have thought 
seriously of inviting my bride up thither, where our 



coverdale's hermitage. 119 

next neighbors would have been two orioles in another 
part of the clump. ^ , 

It was an admirable place to make verses, tuning the 
rhythm to the breezy symphony that so often stirred 
among the vine-leaves ; or to meditate an essay for the 
Dial, in which the many tongues of Nature whispered 
m^ysteries, and seemed to ask only a little stronger puff 
of wind to speak out the solution of its riddle. Being so 
pervious to air-currents, it was just the nook, too, for the 
enjoyment of a cigar. This hermitage was my' one 
exclusive possession while I counted myself a brother of 
the socialists. It symbolized my individuality, and aided 
me in keeping it inviolate. None ever found me out in 
it, except, once, a squirrel. I brought thither no guest, 
because, after. HDllingswQrtli..iailed me, there was no 
longer the man alive with whom I could think of sharing 
all. So there I used to sit, owl-like, yet not without lib- 
eral and hospitable thoughts. I counted the innumer- 
able clusters of my vine, and fore-reckoned the abundance 
of my vintage. It gladdened me to anticipate the sur- 
prise of the Community, when, like an allegorical figure 
of rich October, I should make my appearance, with 
shoulders bent beneath the burthen of ripe grapes, and 
some of the crushed ones crimsoning my brow as with a 
blood-stain. 

Ascending into this natural turret, I peeped in turn 
out of several of its small windows. The pine-tree, being 
ancient, rose high above the rest of the wood, which was 
of comparatively recent growth. Even w^here I sat, 
about midway between the root and the topmost bough, 
my position was lofty enough to serve as an observatory, 
not for starry investigations, but for those sublunarj'' 



120 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

matters in which lay a lore as infinite as that of the 
planets. Through one loop-hole I saw the river lapsing 
calmly onward, while in the meadow, near its brink, a 
few of the brethren were digging peat for our winter's 
fuel. On the interior cart-road of our farm, I discerned 
Hollingsworth, with a yoke of oxen hitched to a drag of 
stones, that were to be piled into a fence, on which we 
employed ourselves at the odd intervals of other labor. 
The harsh tones of his voice, shouting to the sluggish 
steers, made me sensible, even at such a distance, that 
he was ill at ease, and that the balked philanthropist 
had the battle-spirit in his heart. 
^^. " Haw, Buck ! " quoth he. " Come along there, ye 
lazy ones ! What are ye about, now ? Gee ! " 
I'" Mankind, in Hollingsworth's opinion," thought I, 
" is but another yoke of oxen, as stubborn, stupid, and 
sluggish, as our old Brown and Bright. He vituperates 
us aloud, and curses us in his heart, and will begin to 
prick us with the goad-stick, by and by. But are we 
his oxen? And what right has he to be the driver? 
And why, when there is enough else to do, should we 
waste our strength in dragging home the ponderous load 
. of his philanthropic absurdities ? At my height above 
^^e earth, the whole matter looks ridiculous JJ 

Turning towards the farm-house, I saw Priscilla (for, 
though a great way off, the eye of faith assured me that 
it was she) sitting at Zenobia's window, and making 
little purses, I suppose ; or, perhaps, mending the Com- 
munity's old linen. A bird flew past my tree ; and, as it 
clove its way onward into the sunny atmosphere, I flung 
it a message for Priscilla. 
}i^^ Tell her," said I, " that her fragile thread of life has 



coverdale's hermitage. 121 'V 

inextricably knotted itself with other and tougher threads, f f y 
and most likely it will be broken. Tell her that Zeno- i I .f 
bia will not be long her friend. Say that Hollings- j i\ 
worth's heart is on fire with his own purpose, but icy j «> 
for all human affection ; and that, if she has given him \ 
her love, it is like casting a flower into a sepulchre. 1 
And say that if any mortal really cares for her, it is 
myself; and not even I, for her realities, — poor little 
seamstress, as Zenobia rightly called her ! — but for ihQ 
fancy-work with which I have idly decked her out \ )t 

The pleasant scent of the wood, evolved by the hot 
sun, stole up to my nostrils, as if I had been an idol in 
its niche. Many trees mingled their fragrance into a 
thousand-fold odor. Possibly there was a sensual influ- 
ence in the broad light of noon that lay beneath me. It 
may have been the cause, in part, that I suddenly found 
m3^self possessed by a mood of disbelief in moral beauty 
or heroism, and a conviction of the folly of attempting to 
benefit the world. Our especial scheme of reform, which, 
from my observatory, I could take in with the bodily eye, 
looked so ridiculous that it was impossible not to laugh 
aloud. 

" But the joke is a little too heavy," thought I. " If 
I were wise, I should get out of the scrape with all dili- 
gence, and then laugh at my companions for remaining 
in it." 

While thus mousing, I heard, with perfect distinctness, 
somewhere in the wood beneath, the peculiar laugh 
which I have described as one of the disagreeable char- 
acteristics of Professor Westervelt. It brought my 
thoughts back to our recent interview. I recognized as 
chiefly due to this man's influence the sceptical and 



122 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

sneering view which, just now, had filled my mental 
vision, in regard to all life's better purposes. And it 
was through his eyes, more than my own, that I was 
looking at HoUingsworth, with his glorious, if impracti- 
cable dream, and at the noble earthliness of Zenobia's 
character, and even at Priscilla, whose impalpable 
grace lay so singularly between disease and beauty. 
The essential charm of each had vanished. There are 
some spheres the contact with which inevitably degrades 
the high, debases the pure, deforms the beautiful. It 
must be a mind of uncomm.on strength, ond little impres- 
sibility, that can permit itself the habit of such inter- 
course, and not be permanently deteriorated ; and yet 
the Professor's tone represented that of worldly society 
at large, where a cold scepticism smothers what it can 
of our spiritual aspirations, and makes the rest ridicu- 
lous. I detested this kind of man; and all the more 
because a part of my own nature showed itself respons- 
ive to him. 

Voices were now approaching through the region of 
the wood which lay in the vicinity of my tree. Soon I 
caught glimpses of two figures — a woman and a man — 
Zenobia and the stranger — earnestly talking together 
as they advanced. 

Zenobia had a rich, though varying color. It was, 
most of the while, a flame, and anon a sudden paleness. 
Her eyes glowed, so that their light sometimes flashed 
upward to me, as when the sun throws a dazzle from 
some bright object on the ground. Her gestures were 
free, and strikingly impressive. The whole woman was 
alive with a passionatTTTrt^nsity, which I now perceived 
to be the phase in which her beauty culminated. Any 



coverdale's hermitage. 123 

passion would have become her well ; and passionate 
love, perhaps, the best of all. This was not love, but 
anger, largely intermixed with scorn. Yet the idea 
strangely forced itself upon me, that there was a sort of 
familiarity between these two companions, necessarily 
the result of an intimate love, — on Zenobia's part, at 
least, — in days gone by, but which had prolonged itself 
into as intimate a hatred, for all futurity. As they 
passed among the trees, reckless as her movement was, 
she took good heed that even the hem of her garment 
should not brush against the stranger's person. I won- 
dered whether there had always been a chasm, guarded 
so religiously, betwixt these two. 

As for Westervelt, he was .not a whit more warmed 
by Zenobia's passion than a salamander by the heat of 
its native furnace. He would have been absolutely 
statuesque, save for a look of slight perplexity, tinctured 
strongly with derision. It was a crisis in which his intel- 
lectual perceptions could not altogether help him out. 
He failed to comprehend, and cared but little for com- 
prehending, why Zenobia should put herself into such a 
fume ; but satisfied his mind that it was all folly, and 
only another shape of a woman's manifold absurdity, 
which men can never understand. How many a 
woman's evil fate has yoked her with a man like this ! 
Nature thrusts some of us into the world miserably 
incomplete on the emotional side, with hardly any sen- 
sibilities except what pertain to us as animals. No pas- 
sion, save of the senses ; no holy tenderness, nor the 
delicacy that results from this. Externally they bear a 
close resemblance to other men, and have perhaps all 
save the finest grace ; but when a woman wrecks her- 



124 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

self on such a being, she ultimately finds that the real 
womanhood within her has no corresponding part in 
him. Her deepest voice lacks a response ; the deeper 
her cry, the more dead his silence. The fault may be 
none of his ; he cannot give her what nevef lived within 
his soul. But the wretchedness on her side, and the 
moral deterioration attendant on a false and shallow 
life, without strength enough to keep itself sweet, are 
among the most pitiable wrongs that mortals suffer. 

Now, as I looked down from my upper region at this 
man and woman, — outwardly so fair a sight, and wan- 
dering like two lovers in the wood, — I imagined that 
Zenobia, at an earlier period of youth, might have fallen 
into the misfortune above indicated. And when her 
passionate womanhood, as was inevitable, had discov- 
ered its mistake, there had ensued the character of 
eccentricity and defiance which distinguished the more 
public portion of her life. 

Seeing how aptly matters had chanced thus far, I 
began to think it the design of fate to let me into all 
Zenobia's secrets, and that therefore the couple would 
sit down beneath my tree, and carry on a conversation 
which would leave me nothing to inquire. No doubt, 
however, had it so happened, I should have deemed 
myself honorably bound to warn them of a listener's 
presence, by flinging down a handful of unripe grapes, or 
by sending an unearthly groan out of my hiding-place, 
as if this were one of the trees of Dante's ghostly forest. 
But real life never arranges itself exactly like a romance. 
In the first place, they did not sit down at all. Secondly, 
even while they passed beneath the tree, Zenobia's utter- 
ance was so hasty and broken, and Westervelt's so cool 



125 



and low, that I hardly could make out an intelligible 
sentence,' on either side. What I seem to remember, I 
yet suspect, may have been patched together by my 
fancy, in brooding over the matter, afterwards. 

** Why not fling the girl off," said Westervelt, " and 
let her go?" 

*' She clung to me from the first," replied Zenobia. 
" I neither know nor care what it is in me that so 
attaches her. But she loves me, and I will not fail 
her." 

" She will plague you, then," said he, " in more ways 
than one." 

"The poor child!" exclaimed Zenobia. "She can 
do me neither good nor harm. How should she ?" 

I know not what reply Westervelt whispered; nor did 
Zenobia 's subsequent exclamation give me any clue, 
except that it evidently inspired her with horror and 
disgust. 

" With what kind of a being am I linked ?" cried she. 
"If my Creator cares aught for my soul, let him release 
me from this miserable bond ! " 

" I did not think it weighed so heavily," said her 
companion. 

" Nevertheless," answered Zenobia, " it will strangle 
me, at last ! " 

And then I heard her utter a helpless sort of moan ; 
a sound which, struggling out of the heart of a person 
of her pride and strength, affected me more than if she 
had made the wood dolorously vocal with a thousand 
shrieks and wails. 

Other mysterious words, besides what are above 
v/ritten, they spoke together ; but I understood no more, 



/ 



126 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

and even question whether I fairly understood so much 
as this. By long brooding over our recollections, we 
subtilize them into something akin to imaginary stuff, 
and hardly capable of being distinguished from it. In a 
few moments, they were completely beyond ear-shot. A 
breeze stirred after them, and awoke the leafy tongues 
of the surrounding trees, which forthwith began to 
babble, as if innumerable gossips had all at once got 
wind of Zenobia's secret. But, as the breeze grew 
stronger, its voice among the branches was as if it said, 
" Hush ! Hush I " and I resolved that to no mortal 
would I disclose what I had heard . And, though there 
might be room for casuistry, such, I conceive, is the 
most equitable rule in all similar conjunctures. 



XIII. 

ZENOBIA'S LEGEND. 

The illustrious Society of Blithedale, though it toiled 
in downright earnest for the good of mankind, yet not 
unfrequently illuminated its laborious life with an after- 
noon or evening of pastime. Picnics under the trees 
were considerably in vogue ; and, within doors, frag- 
mentary bits of theatrical performance, such as single 
acts of tragedy or comedy, or dramatic proverbs and 
charades. Zenobia, besides, was fond of giving us read- 
ings from Shakspeare, and often with a depth of tragic 
power, or breadth of comic effect, that made one feel it 
an intolerable wrong to the world that she did not at 
once go upon the stage. Tableaux vivants were another 
of our occasional modes of amusement, in which scarlet 
shawls, old silken robes, ruffs, velvets, furs, and all kinds 
of miscellaneous trumpery, converted our familiar com- 
panions into the people of a pictorial world. We had 
been thus engaged on the evening after the incident 
narrated in the last chapter. Several splendid works 
of art — either arranged after engravings from the old 
masters, or original illustrations of scenes in history or 
romance — had been presented, and we were earnestly 
entreating Zenobia for more. 

She stood, with a meditative air, holding a large 
piece of gauze, or some such ethereal stuff, as if consid- 
ering what picture should next occupy the frame ; while 



128 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

at her feet lay a heap of many-colored garments, which 
her quick fancy and magic skill could so easily convert 
into gorgeous draperies for heroes and princesses. 

"I am getting weary of this," said she, after a 
moment's thought. " Our own features, and our own 
figures and airs, show a little too intrusively through all 
the characters we assume. We have so much famil- 
iarity with one another's realities, that we cannot remove 
ourselves, at pleasure, into an imaginary sphere. Let 
us have no more pictures to-night; but, to make you 
what poor amends I can, how would you like to have 
me trump up a wild, spectral legend, on the spur of the 
moment ? " 

Zenobia had the gift of telling a fanciful little story, 
off-hand, in a way that made it greatly more effective 
than it was usually found to be when she afterwards 
elaborated the same production with her pen. Her pro- 
posal, therefore, was greeted with acclamation. 

" O, a story, a story, by all means ! " cried the young 
girls. " No matter how marvellous ; we will believe it, 
every word. And let it be a ghost-story, if you please.'* 

" No, not exactly a ghost-story," answered Zenobia ; 
"but something so nearly like it that you shall hardly 
tell the difference. And, Priscilla, stand you before me, 
where I may look at you, and get my inspiration out of 
your eyes. They are very deep and dreamy to-night." 

I know not whether the following version of her story 
will retain any portion of its pristine character ; but, as 
Zenobia told it wildly and rapidly, hesitating at no 
extravagance, and dashing at absurdities which I am 
too timorous to repeat, — giving it the varied emphasis 
of her inimitable voice, and the pictorial illustration of 



zenobia's legend. 129 

her mobile face, while through it all we caught the 
freshest aroma of the thoughts, as they came bubbling 
out of her mind, — thus narrated, and thus heard, the 
legend seemed quite a remarkable affair. I scarcely 
knew, at the time, w^hether she intended us to laugh or 
be more seriously impressed. From beginning to end, 
it was undeniable nonsense, but not necessarily the 
worse for that. 



THE SILVERY VEIL. 

You have heard, my dear friends, of the Veiled 
Lady, who grew suddenly so very famous, a few months 
ago. And have you never thought how remarkable it 
was that this marvellous creature should vanish, all at 
once, while her renown was on the increase, before the 
public had grown weary of her, and when the enigma 
of her character, instead of being solved, presented itself 
more mystically at every exhibition ? Her last appear- 
ance, as you know, was before a crowded audience. 
The next evening, — although the bills had announced 
her, at the corner of every street, in red letters of a 
gigantic size, — there was no Veiled Lady to be seen ! 
Now, listen to my simple little tale, and you shall hear 
the Yerj latest incident in the known life — (if life it may 
be called, which seemed to have no more reality than 
the candle-light image of one's self which peeps at us 
outside of a dark window-pane) — the life of this shadowy 
phenomenon. 

A party of young gentlemen, you are to understand, 
were enjoying themselves, one afternoon, — as young 
9 



130 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

gentlemen are sometimes fond of doing, — over a bottle 
or two of champagne ; and, among other ladies less mys- 
terious, the subject of the Veiled Lady, as was very- 
natural, happened to come up before them for discussion. 
She rose, as it were, with the sparkling effervescence of 
their wine, and appeared in a more airy and fantastic 
light on account of the medium through which they 
saw her. They repeated to one another, betw^een jest 
and earnest, all the wild stories that were in vogue ; nor, 
I presume, did they hesitate to add any small circum- 
stance that the inventive whim of the moment might 
suggest, to heighten the marvellousness of their theme. 

" Bat what an audacious report was that," observed 
one, "which pretended to assert the identity of this 
strange creature with a young lady," — and here he 
mentioned her name, — " the daughter of one of our 
most distinguished families ! " 

" Ah, there is more in that story than can well be 
accounted for," remarked another. " I have it, on good 
authority, that the young lady in question is invariably 
out of sight, and not to be traced, even by her own 
family, at the hours when the Veiled Lady is before the 
public ; nor can any satisfactory explanation be given of 
her disappearance. And just look at the thing : Her 
brother is a young fellow of spirit. He cannot but be 
aware of these rumors in reference to his sister. Why, 
then, does he not come forward to defend her character, 
unless he is conscious that an investigation would only 
make the matter worse ? " 

It is essential to the purposes of my legend to distin- 
guish one of these young gentlemen from his com- 
panions; so, for the sake of a soft and pretty name 



zenobia's legend. 131 

(such as we of the literary sisterhood invariably bestow 
upon our heroes), I deem it fit to call him Theodore. 

" Pshaw ! " exclaimed Theodore ; " her brother is no 
such fool ! Nobody, unless his brain be as full of bub- 
bles as this wine, can seriously think of crediting that 
ridiculous rumor. Why, if my senses did not play me 
false (which never was the case yet), I affirm that I saw 
that very lady, last evening", at the exhibition, while this 
veiled phenomenon was playing off her juggling tricks ! 
What can you say to that ? " 

" 0, it was a spectral illusion that you saw," replied 
his friends, with a general laugh. *' The Veiled Lady is 
quite up to such a thing." 

However, as the above-mentioned fable could not hold 
its ground against Theodore's downright refutation, 
they went on to speak of other stories which the wild 
babble of the town had set afloat. Some upheld that 
the veil covered the most b eautiful countenanc e in the 
world; others, — and. certainly with more reason, con- 
sidering the sex of the Veiled Lady, — that the face was 
the_most hideou s and horrible, and that this was her 
sole motive for hiding it. It was the face of a corpse ; it 
was the head of a skeleton ; it was a monstrous visage, 
with snaky locks, like Medusa's, and one great red eye 
in the centre of the forehead. Again, it was affirmed 
that there was no single and unchangeable set of 
features beneath the veil ; but that whosoever should be 
bold enough to lift it would behold the features of that 
person, in all the world, who was destined to be his 
fate ; perhaps he would be greeted by the tender smile 
of the woman whom he loved, or, quite as probably, the 
deadly scowl of his bitterest enemy would throw a blight 



132 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

over his life. They quoted, moreover, this startling 
explanation of the whole affair : that the magician who 
exhibited the Veiled Lady — and who, by the by, was the 
handsomest man in the whole world — had bartered his 
own soul for seven years' possession of a familiar fiend, 
and that the last year of the contract was wearing 
towards its close. 

If it were worth our while, I could keep you till an 
hour beyond midnight listening to a thousand such 
absurdities as these. But finally our friend Theodore, 
who prided himself upon his common sense, found the 
matter getting quite beyond his patience. 

" I offer any wager you like," cried he, setting down 
his glass so forcibly as to break the stem of it, " that this 
very evening I find out the mystery of the Veiled Lady ! " 

Young men, I am told, boggle at nothing, over their 
wine ; so, after a little more talk, a wager of consider- 
able amount was actually laid, the money staked, and 
Theodore left to choose his own method of settling the 
dispute. 

How he managed it I know not, nor is it of any 
great importance to this veracious legend. The most 
natural way, to be sure, 'was by bribing the door-keeper, 
— or possibly he preferred clambering in at the win- 
dow. But, at any rate, that very evening, while the 
exhibition was going forward in the hall, Theodore con- 
trived to gain admittance into the private withdrawing- 
room whither the Veiled Lady was accustomed to retire 
at the close of her performances. There he waited, 
listening, I suppose, to the stifled hum of the great audi- 
ence ; and no doubt he could distinguish the deep tones 
of the magician, causing the wonders that he wrought 



133 



to appear more dark and intricate, by his mystic pretence 
of an explanation. Perhaps, too, in the intervals of the 
wild, breezy music which accompanied the exhibition, 
he might hear the low voice of the Veiled Lady, convey- 
ing her sibylline responses. Firm as Theodore's nerves 
might be, and much as he prided himself on his sturdy 
perception of realities, I should not be surprised if his 
heart throbbed at a little more than its ordinary rate. 

Theodore concealed himself behind a screen. In due 
time, the performance was brought to a close, and, 
whether the door was softly opened, or whether her 
bodiless presence came through the wall, is more than I 
can say, but, all at once, without the young man's 
knowing how it happened, a veiled figure stood in the 
centre of the room. It was one thing to be in presence 
of this mystery in the hall of exhibition, where the 
warm, dense life of hundreds of other mortals kept up 
the beholder's courage, and distributed her influence 
among so many ; it was another thing to be quite alone 
with her, and that, too, with a hostile, or, at least, an 
unauthorized and unjustifiable purpose. I rather imagine 
that Theodore now began to be sensible of something 
more serious in his enterprise than he had been quite 
aware of, while he sat v/ith his boon-companions over 
their sparkling wine. 

Very strange, it must be confessed, was the movement 
with which the figure floated to and fro over the carpet, 
with the silvery veil covering her from head to foot ; so 
impalpable, so ethereal, so without substance, as the 
texture seemed, yet hiding her every outline in an im- 
penetrability like that of midnight. Surely, she did not 
walk ! She floated, and flitted, and hovered about the 



134 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

room ; — no sound of a footstep, no perceptible motion 
of a limb ; — it was as if a wandering breeze wafted 
her before it, at its own wild and gentle pleasure. But, 
by and by, a purpose began to be discernible, throughout 
the seeming vagueness of her unrest. She was in 
quest of something. Could it be that a subtile presen- 
timent had informed her of the young man's presence ? 
And if so, did the Veiled Lady seek or did she shun 
him? The doubt in Theodore's mind was speedily 
resolved; for, after a moment or two of these erratic 
flutterings, she advanced more decidedly, and stood 
motionless before the screen. 

" Thou art here ! " said a soft, low voice. " Come 
forth, Theodore ! " 

Thus summoned by his name, Theodore, as a man of 
courage, had no choice. He emerged from his conceal- 
ment, and presented himself before the Veiled Lady, 
with the wine-flush, it may be, quite gone out of his 
cheeks. 

" What wouldst thou with me ? " she inquired, with 
the same gentle composure that was in her former 
utterance. 

*' Mysterious creature," replied Theodore, "I would 
know who and what you are ! " 

" My lips are forbidden to betray the secret," said the 
Veiled Lady. 

" At whatever risk, I must discover it," rejoined 
Theodore. 

" Then," said the Mystery, " there is no way, save to 
lift my veil." 

And Theodore, partly recovering his audacity, stept 
forward on the instant, to do as the Veiled Lady had 



zenobia's legend. 135 

suggested. But she floated backward to the opposite 
side of the room, as if the young man's breath had pos- 
sessed power enough to waft her away. 

" Pause, one little instant," said the soft, low voice, 
" and learn the conditions of what thou art so bold to 
undertake ! Thou canst go hence, and think of me no 
more ; or, at thy option, thou canst lift this mysterious 
veil, beneath which I am a sad and lonely prisoner, in a 
bondage which is worse to me than death. But, before 
raising it, I entreat thee, in all maiden modesty, to bend 
forward and impress a kiss where my breath stirs 
the veil ; and my virgin lips shall come forward to meet 
thy lips ; and from that instant, Theodore, thou shalt be 
mine, and I thine, with never more a veil between us. 
And all the felicity of earth and of the future world shall 
be thine and mine together. So much may a maiden 
say behind the veil. If thou shrinkest from this, there 
is yet another way." 

" And what is that ? " asked Theodore. 

" Dost thou hesitate," said the Veiled Lady, " to 
pledge thyself to me, by meeting these lips of mine, 
while the veil yet hides my face ? Has not thy heart 
recognized me ? Dost thou come hither, not in holy 
faith, nor with a pure and generous purpose, but in 
scornful scepticism and idle curiosity? Still, thou 
mayest lift the veil ! But, from that instant, Theodore, 
I am doomed to be thy evil fate; nor wilt thou evei 
taste another breath of happiness ! " 

There was a shade of inexpressible sadness in the 
utterance of these last words. But Theodore, whose 
natural tendency was towards scepticism, felt himself 
almost injured and insulted by the Veiled Lady's pro- 



136 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

posal that he should pledge himself, for life and eternity, 
to so questionable a creature as herself ; or even that she 
should suggest an inconsequential kiss, taking into view 
the probability that her face was none of the most 
bewitching. A delightful idea, truly, that he should 
salute the lips of a dead girl, or the jaws of a skeleton, 
or the grinning cavity of a monster's mouth ! Even 
should she prove a comely maiden enough in other re- 
spects, the odds were ten to one that her teeth were defect- 
ive ; a terrible drawback on the delectableness of a kiss. 

" Excuse me, fair lady," said Theodore, — and I 
think he nearly burst into a laugh, — " if I prefer to lift 
the veil first; and for this affair of the kiss, we may 
decide upon it afterwards." 

" Thou hast made thy choice," said the sweet, sad 
voice behind the veil ; and there seemed a tender but 
unresentful sense of wrong done to womanhood by the 
young man's contemptuous interpretation of her offer. 
" I must not counsel thee to pause, although thy fate is 
still in thine own hand ! " 

Grasping at the veil, he flung it upward, and caught a 
glimpse of a pale, lovely face beneath ; just one moment- 
ary glimpse, and then the apparition vanished, and the 
silvery veil fluttered slowly down and lay upon the 
floor. Theodore was alone. Our legend leaves him 
there. His retribution was, to pine for ever and ever 
for another sight of that dim, mournful face, — which 
might have been his life-long household fireside joy, — 
to desire, and waste life in a feverish quest, and never 
meet it more. 

But what, in good sooth, had become of the Veiled 
Lady ? Had all her existence been comprehended with- 



137 



in that mysterious veil, and was she now annihilated ? 
Or was she a spirit, with a heavenly essence, but which 
might have been tamed down to human bliss, had Theo- 
dore been brave and true enough to claim her ? Hearken, 
my sweet friends, — and hearken, dear Priscilla, — and 
you shall learn the little more that Zenobia can tell you. 

Just at the moment, so far as can be ascertained, 
when the Veiled Lady vanished, a maiden, pale and 
shadowy, rose up amid a knot of visionary people, who 
were seeking for the better life. She was so gentle and 
so sad, — a nameless melancholy gave her such hold 
upon their sympathies, — that they never thought of 
questioning whence she came. She might have here- 
tofore existed, or her thin substance might have been 
moulded out of air at the very instant when they first 
beheld her. It was all one to them ; they took her to 
their hearts. Among them was a lady, to whom, more 
than to all the rest, this pale, mysterious girl attached 
herself. 

But one morning the lady was wandering in the 
woods, and there met her a figure in an oriental robe, 
with a dark beard, and holding in his hand a silvery 
veil. He motioned her to stay. Being a woman of 
some nerve, she did not shriek, nor run away, nor faint, 
as many ladies would have been apt to do, but stood 
quietly, and bade him speak. The truth was, she had 
seen his face before, but had never feared it, although 
she knew him to be a terrible magician. 

" Lady," said he, with a warning gesture, " you are in 
peril ! " 

" Peril ! " she exclaimed. " And of what nature ? " 

" There is a certain maiden," replied the magician, 



138 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" who has come out of the realm of mystery, and made 
herself your most intimate companion. Now, the fates 
have so ordained it, that, whether by her own will or no, 
this stranger is your deadliest enemy. In love, in 
worldly fortune, in all your pursuit of happiness, she is 
doomed to fling a blight over your prospects. There 
is but one possibility of thwarting her disastrous in- 
fluence." 

" Then tell me that one method," said the lady. 

" Take this veil," he answered, holding forth the sil- 
very texture. " It is a spell ; it is a powerful enchant- 
ment, which I wrought for her sake, and beneath which 
she was once my prisoner. Throw it, at unawares, over 
the head of this secret foe, stamp your foot, and cry, 
* Arise, Magician, here is the Veiled Lady ! ' and imme- 
diately I will rise up through the earth, and seize her ; 
and from that moment you are safe ! " 

So the lady took the silvery veil, which was like 
woven air, or like some substance airier than nothing, 
and that would float upward and be lost among the 
clouds, were she once to let it go. Eeturning home- 
ward, she found the shadov^ girl, amid the knot of 
visionary transcendentalists, who were still seeking for 
the better life. She was joyous now, and had a rose- 
bloom in her cheeks, and was one of the prettiest crea- 
tures, and seemed one of the happiest, that the world 
could show. But the lady stole noiselessly behind her, 
and threw the veil over her head. As the slight, ethe- 
real texture sank inevitably down over her figure, tlie 
poor girl strove to raise it, and met her dear friend's 
eyes with one glance of mortal terror, and deep, deep 
reproach. It could not change her purpose. 



139 



" Arise, Magician ! " she exclaimed, stamping her foot 
upon the earth. " Here is the Veiled Lady ! " 

At the word, uprose the bearded man in the oriental 
robes, — the beautiful, the dark magician, who had. 
bartered away his soul ! He threw his arms around 
the Veiled Lady, and she was his bond-slave forever- 
more ! 



Zenobia, all this while, had been holding the piece of 
gauze, and so managed it as greatly to increase the 
dramatic effect of the legend at those points where the 
magic veil was to be described. Arriving at the catas- 
trophe, and uttering the fatal words, she flung the gauze 
over Priscilla's head ; and for an instant her auditors 
held their breath, half expecting, I verily believe, that 
the magician would start up through the floor, and carry 
off our poor little friend, before our eyes. 

As for Priscilla, she stood droopingly in the midst of 
us, making no attempt to remove the veil. 

*' How do you find yourself, my love ? " said Zenobia, 
lifting a corner of the gauze, and peeping beneath it, 
with a mischievous smile. " Ah, the dear little soul ! 
Why, she is really going to faint ! Mr. Coverdale, Mr. 
Coverdale, pray bring a glass of water ! " 

Her nerves being none of the strongest, Priscilla 
hardly recovered her equanimity during the rest of the 
evening. This, to be sure, was a great pity; but, 
nevertheless, we thought it a very bright idea of Zeno- 
bia's to bring her legend to so effective a conclusion. 



XIV. 

ELIOT'S PULPIT. 

Our Sundays, at Blithedale, were not ordinarily kept 
with such rigid observance as might have befitted the 
descendants of the Pilgrims, whose high enterprise, as we 
sometimes flattered ourselves, we had taken up, and were 
carrying it onward and aloft, to a point which they never 
dreamed of attaining. 

On that hallowed day, it is true, we rested from our 
labors. Our oxen, relieved from their week-day yoke, 
roamed at large through the pasture ; each yoke-fellow, 
however, keeping close beside his mate, and continuing 
to acknowledge, from the force of habit and sluggish 
sympathy, the union which the taskmaster had imposed 
for his own hard ends. As for us human yoke-fellows, 
chosen companions of toil, whose hoes had clinked 
together throughout the week, we wandered off, in vari- 
ous directions, to enjoy our interval of repose. Some, I 
believe, went devoutly to the village church. Others, it 
may be, ascended a city or a country pulpit, wearing the 
clerical robe with so much dignity that you would 
scarcely have suspected the yeoman's frock to have been 
flung off only since milking-time. Others took long 
rambles among the rustic lanes and by-paths, pausing to 
look at black old farm-houses, with their sloping roofs ; 
and at the modern cottage, so like a plaything that it 
seemed as if real joy or sorrow could have no scope 



Eliot's pulpit. 141 

within ; and at the more pretending villa, with its range 
of wooden columns, supporting the needless insolence of 
a great portico. Some betook themselves into the wide, 
dusky barn, and lay there for hours together on the 
odorous hay; while the sunstreaks and the shadows 
strove together, — these to make the barn solemn, those 
to make it cheerful, — and both were conquerors; and 
the swallows twittered .a cheery anthem, flashing into 
sight, or vanishing, as they darted to and fro among the 
golden rules of sunshine. And others went a little way 
into the woods, and threw themselves on mother earth , 
pillowing their heads on a heap of moss, the green decay 
of an old log; and, dropping asleep, the humble-bees 
and mosquitoes sung and buzzed about their ears, caus- 
ing the slumberers to twitch and start, without awak- 
ening. 

With Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Priscilla and myself, it 
grew to be a, custom to spend the Sabbath afternoon at a 
certain rock. It was known to us under the name of 
Eliot's pulpit, from a tradition that the venerable Apostle 
Eliot had preached there, two centuries gone by, to an 
Indian auditory. The old pine forest, through which the 
apostle's voice was wont to sound, had fallen, an imme- 
morial time ago. But the soil, being of the rudest and 
most broken surface, had apparently never been brought 
under tillage; other growths, maple, and beech, and 
birch, had succeeded to the primeval trees ; so that it 
was still as wild a tract of woodland as the great-great- 
great-great-grandson of one of Eliot's Indians (had any 
such posterity been in existence) could have desired, 
for the site and shelter of his wigwam. These after- 
growths, indeed, lose the stately solemnity of the original 



142 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

forest. If left in due neglect, however, they run into an 
entanglement of softer wildness, among the rustling 
leaves of which the sun can scatter cheerfulness as it 
never could among the dark-browed pines. 

The rock itself rose some twenty or thirty feet, a shat- 
tered granite boulder, or heap of boulders, with an irreg- 
ular outline and many fissures, out of which sprang 
shrubs, bushes, and even trees ; as if the scanty soil 
within those crevices were sweeter to their roots than 
any other earth. 'At the base of the pulpit, the broken 
boulders inclined towards each other, so as to form a 
shallow cave, within which our little party had some- 
times found protection from a summer shower. On the 
threshold, or just across it, grew a tuft of pale colum- 
/^ bines, in their season, and violets, sad and shadowy 
recluses, such as Priscilla was when we first knew her; 
children of the sun, who had never seen their father, but 
dwelt among damp mosses, though not akin to them. 
At the summit, the rock was overshadowed by the can- 
opy of a birch-tree, which served as a sounding-board 
for the pulpit. Beneath this shade (with my eyes of 
sense half shut, and those of the imagination widely 
opened) I used to see the holy Apostle of the Indians, 
with the sunlight flickering down upon him through the 
leaves, and glorifying his figure as with the half-per- 
ceptible glow of a transfiguration. 

I the more minutely describe the rock, and this little 
Sabbath solitude, because Hollings worth, at our solic- 
itation, often ascended Eliot's pulpit, and not exactly 
preached, but talked to us, his few disciples, in a 
strain that rose and fell as naturally as the wind's 
breath among the leaves of the birch-tree. No other 



Eliot's pulpit. 143 

speech of man has ever moved me like some of those 
discourses. It seemed most pitiful — a positive calam- 
ity to the world — that a treasury of golden thoughts 
should thus be scattered, by the liberal handful, down 
among us three, when a thousand hearers might have 
been the richer for them ; and Hollingsworth the richer, 
likewise, by the sympathy of multitudes. After speak- 
ing much or little, as might happen, he would descend 
from his gray pulpit, and genemlly fling himself at full 
length on the ground, face downward. Meanwhile, we 
talked around him, on such topics as were suggested by 
the discourse. 

Since her interview with Westervelt, Zenobia's con- 
tinual inequalities of temper had been rather difficult for 
her friends to bear. On the first Sunday after that inci- 
dent, when Hollingsworth had clambered down from 
Eliot's pulpit, she declaimed with great earnestness and 
passion, nothing short ^fLang er, on the injustice which 
th^vorld did to women, and equally to itself, by n ot 
allowTngn^em^inf^^ honor^ ajid with the full- 

est. welcome, their natural utterance. ia4)ublic. 

"It shall not always be so ! " cried she. "If I live 
another year, I will lift up my ov^nyoice in behalf of 
.aaz^man's wider liberty!" 

SheTperhapsTsaw me smile. 

" What matter of ridicule do you find in this. Miles 
Coverdale ? " exclaimed Zenobia, with a flash of anger 
in her eyes. " That smile, permit me to say, makes me 
suspicious of a low tone of feeling and shallow thought. 
It is my belief — yes, and my prophecy, should I die 
before it happens — that, when my sex shall achieve its 
rights, there will be ten eloquent women where there is 



144 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

now one eloquent man. Thus far, no woman in the 
world has ever once spoken out her whole heart and 
her whole mind. The mistrust and disapproval of the 
vast bulk of society throttles us, as with two gigantic 
hands at our throats ! We mum.bie a few weak words, 
and leave a thousand better ones unsaid. You let us 
write a little, it is true, on a limited range of subjects. 
Pnf thp j^en^ is no t for woman. Her power is too natural 
and immediate. It is wjth the living voice alone that 
she can compel the world to recognize the light of her 
intellect and the depth of her heart ! " 

Now, — though I could not well say so to Zenobia, — 
I had not smiled from any unworthy estimate of woman, 
or in denial of the claims which she is beginning to 
put forth. What amused and puzzled me was the fact, 
that women, however intellectually superior, so seldom 
disquiet themselves about the rights or wrongs of their 
sex, unless their own individual affections chance to lie 
in idleness, or to be ill at ease. Tljey are not riatural 
reformers, Jbut become such by the pressure of excep- 
tional misfortune. I could measure Zenobia's inward 
trouble by the animosity with which she now took up 
the general quarrel of woman against man. 

" I will give you leave, Zenobia," replied I, " to fling 
your utmost scorn upon me, if you ever hear me utter a 
sentiment unfavorable to the widest liberty which woman 
has yet dreamed of. I would give her all she asks, and 
add a great deal more, which she will not be the party 
to demand, but which men, if they were generous and 
wise, would grant of their own free motion. For 
instance, I should love dearly, — for the next thousand 
years, at least, — to have all government devolve into 



Eliot's pulpit. 145 

the hands of women. I hate to be ruled by my own 
sex ; it excites my jealousy, and wounds my pride. It 
is the iron sway of bodily force which abases us, in our 
compelled submission. But how sweet the free, gen- 
erous courtesy, with which I would kneel before a 
woman-ruler ! " 

" Yes, if she were young and beautiful," said Zeno- 
bia, laughing. "But how if she were sixty, and a 
fright?" 

" AJlJ_itds_^u^ that mte_ womanh ood low," said I. 
" But let me go on. I have never found it possible to 
suffer a bearded priest so near my heart and conscience 
as to do me any spiritual good. I blush at the very 
thought I O, in the better order of things. Heaven grant 
that the ministry of souls may be left in charge of 
women ! The gates of the Blessed City will be 
thronged with the multitude that enter in, when that 
day comes ! The task belongs to woman. God meant 
it for her. He has endowed her with the religious sen- 
timent in its utmost depth and purity, refined from that 
gross, intellectual alloy with which every masculine 
theologist — save only One, who merely veiled himself 
in- mortal and masculine shape, but was, in truth, divine 
— has been prone to mingle it. I have always envied 
the Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred Virgin 
Mother^jvhii-^teTTisii^^ and the_Deity,^i nter- 

cepting somewhat of his awful splendor, but permitting 
his love~to~Mreagi _u pon the worshipper more intelligibly ^ 
to human comprehension through the medium of a 
woman's "tenderness. Have I not said enough, Zeno- 
bia?" ^ 

" I cannot think that this is true," observed Priscilla, 
10 



146 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

who had been gazing at me with great, disapproving 
eyes. " And I am sure I do not wish it to be true ! " 

" Poor child ! " exclaimed Zenobia, rather contempt- 
uously. " Shej_sjhe_iyp£_i)i— »L£an^^ 
has-.spent-^enturiesjji_miiking it. He is never content, 
unless he can degrade himself by stooping towards what 
he loves. In rlpnyi^f>g-. J3S nnr r ights, b^J-)ptrnys even 
more blindness to his own interests than profligate dis- 
regard of oufsT' 

" Is this true?" asked Priscilla, with simplicity, turn- 
ing to Hollingsworth. " Is it all true, that Mr. Cover- 
dale and Zenobia have been saying ? " 

" No, Priscilla ! " answered Hollingsworth, with his 
customary bluntness. " They have neither of them 
spoken one true word yet." 

"Do you despise woman?" said Zenobia. "Ah, 
Hollingsworth, that would be most ungrateful !" 

" Despise her ? No ! " cried Hollingsworth, lifting his 
great shaggy head and shaking it at us, while his eyes 
glowed almost fiercely. " She is the-mgst^ admirable 
handiwork of God, in hertrue_plaae and character. 
Her plac e is at man's side. Her office,' that of the sym- 
pathizer ; the unreserved, unquestioning believer ; the 
recognition, withheld in every other manner, but given, 
in pity, through woman's heart, lest man should utterly 
lose faith in himself; the echo of God's own voice, pro- 
nouncing, *It is well done!' All the separate action 
of woman is, and ever has been, and always shall be, 
false, foolish, vain, destructive of her own best and 
holiest qualities, void of every good effect, and product- 
ive of intolerable mischiefs ! Man is a wretch without 
woman; but woman is a monster — and, thank Heaven, 



Eliot's pulpit. 147 

an almost- impossible and hitherto imaginary monster — 
^vithout man as her acknowledge^^rincipal ! As true 
as^^had once sTinother whonTi loved, were there any- 
possible prospect of woman's taking the social stand 
which some of them — poor, miserable, abortive crea- 
tures, who only dream of such things because they have 
missed woman's peculiar happiness, or becaus e^ nature 
made jhem_really neither man nor woman ! — if there 
were a chance of their attaining the end which these 
petticoated monstrosities have in view, I would call upon 
my own sex to use its physical force, that unmistakable 
evidence of sovereignty, to scourge them back within 
their proper bounds ! But it will not be needful. The 
heart of true womanhood knows where its own sphe re 
is, and never seeks to stray beyond it ! " 

Never was mortal blessed — if blessing it were — with 
a glance of such entire acquiescence and unquestioning 
faith, happy in its completeness, as our little Priscilla 
unconsciously bestowed on HoUingsworth. She seemed 
to take the sentiment from his lips into her heart, and 
brood over it in perfect content. The very woman 
whom he pictured — the gentle garasite, the soft reflec- 
tion of a more powerful existence — sat there at his feet. 

I looked at Zenobia, however, fully expecting her to 
resent — as I felt, by the indignant ebullition of my own 
blood, that she ought — this outrageous affirmation of 
what struck me as the intensity of masculine egotism. 
It centred everything in itself, and deprived woman of 
Jier very soul, her inexpressible and unfathomable all, to 
make it a mere incident in the great sum of man. 
HoUingsworth had boldly uttered what he, and millions 
of despots like him, really felt. Without intending it, 



148 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

he had disclosed the well-spring of all these troubled 
waters. New^Jf ever, it surely behooved Zenobia to be 
th a champion of h^ r sex. 

But, to my surprise, and indignation too, she only 
looked humbled. Some tears sparkled in her eyes, but 
they were wholly of grief, not anger. 

" Well, be it so," was all she said. " I, at least, 
ftiave deep cause to think you right. Let man be but 
manly and god-like, and woman is only too ready to 
vbecome-to him what you say ! " 

I smiled — somewhat bitterly, it is true — in contem- 
plation of my own ill-luck. How little did these two 
women care for me, who had freely conceded all their 
claims, and a great deal more, out of the fulness of my 
heart; while Hollingsworth, by some necromancy of his 
horrible injustice, seemed to have brought them both to 
his feet ! 

" Women almost invariably behave thus," thought I. 
" What does the fact mean ? Is it th fiijLIiature ? Or is 
it^ at last, the result of ages of cqm^ell€dLJ,ggraxla.timi ? 
And, in either caseT^wHI it be possible ever to redeem 
them ? 

An intuition now appeared to possess all the party, 
that, for this time, at least, there was no more to be 
said. With one accord, we arose from the ground, and 
made our way through the tangled undergrowth towards 
one of those pleasant wood-paths that wound among the 
over-arching trees. Some of the branches hung so low 
as partly to conceal the figures that went before from 
those who followed. Priscilla had leaped up more 
lightly than the rest of us, and ran along in advance, 
with as much airy activity of spirit as was typified in 



149 



thejnotioh_of_a_bird, which chanced to be flitting from 
tree to tree, in the same direction as herself. Never did 
she seem so happy as that afternoon. She skipt, and 
could not help it, from very playfulness of heart. 

Zenobia and Hollingsworth went next, in close conti- 
guity, but not with arm in arm. Now, just when they 
had passed the impending bough of a birch-tree, I 
plainly saw Zenobia take the hand of Hollingsworth in 
both her own, press it to her bosom, and let it fall 
again ! 

The gesture was sudden, and full of passion ; the 
impulse had evidently taken her by surprise ; it expressed 
all I Had Zenobia knelt before him, or flung herself 
upon his breast, and gasped out, *' I love you, Hollings- 
worth !" I could not have been more certain of what it 
meant. They then walked onward, as before. But, 
methought, as the declining sun threw Zenobia's magni- 
fied shadow along the path, I beheld it tremulous ; and 
the delicate stem of the flower which she wore in her 
hair was likewise responsive* to her agitation. 

Priscilla — through the medium of her eyes, at least 
— could not possibly have been aware of the gesture 
above described. Yet, at that instant, I saw her droop. 
The buoyancy, which just before had been so bird-like, 
was utterly departed ; the life seemed to pass out of her, 
and even the substance of her figure to grow thin and 
gray. I almost imagined her a shadow, fading grad- 
ually into the dimness of the wood. Her pace became 
so slow, that Hollingsworth and Zenobia passed by, and 
I, without hastening my footsteps, overtook her. 

" Come, Priscilla," said I, looking her intently in the 
face, which was very pale and sorrowful, "we must 



150 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

make haste after our friends. Do you feel suddenly ill ? 
A moment ago, you flitted along so lightly that I was 
comparing you to a bird. Now, on the contrary, it is as 
if you had a heavy heart, and very little strength to bear 
it with. Pray take my arm ! " 

" No," said Priscilla, " I do not think it would help 
me. It is my heart, as you say, that makes me heavy ; 
and I know not why. Just now, I felt very happy." 

No doubt it was a kind of sacrilege in me to attempt 
to come within -her^jiiaidenly _mjstery ; but, as she 
appeared to be tossed aside by her other friends, or care- 
lessly let fall, like a flower which they had done with, I 
could not resist the impulse to take just one peep beneath 
her folded petals. 

" Zenobia and yourself are dear friends, of late," I 
remarked. " At first, — that first evening when you 
came to us, — she did not receive you quite so warmly 
as might have been wished." 

" I remember it," said Priscilla. " No wonder she 
hesitated to love me, who was then a stranger to her, 
and a girl of no grace or beauty, — she being herself so 
beautiful ! " 

"But she loves you now, of course?" suggested I. 
" And at this very instant you feel her to be your dear- 
est friend ? " 

" Why do you ask me that question ? " exclaimed 
Priscilla, as if frightened at the scrutiny into her feel- 
ings which I compelled her to make. " It somehow puts 
strange thoughts into my mind. But I do love Zenobia 
dearly ! If she onlyjoyes me half as wellr-I shall be 
happy ! " 

"How is it possible to doubt that, Priscilla?" I re- 



151 



joined. " But observe how pleasantly and happily 
Zenobia and Hollingsworth are walking together. I 
call it a delightful spectacle. It truly rejoices me that 
Hollingsworth has found so fit and affectionate a friend ! 
So many people in the world mistrust him, — so many 
disbelieve and ridicule, w^hile hardly any do him justice, 
or acknowledge him for the wonderful man he is, — that 
it is really a blessed thing for him to have won the sym- 
pathy of such a woman as Zenobia. Any man might 
be proud of that. Any man, even if he be as great as 
Hollingsworth, might love so magnificent a woman. 
How very beautiful Zenobia is ! And Hollingsworth 
knows it, too." 

There may have been some petty malice in what I 
said. Generosity is a very fine thing, at a proper time, 
and within due limits. But it is an insufferable bore to 
see one man engrossing every thought of all the women, 
and leaving his friend to shiver in outer seclusion, with- 
out even the alternative of solacing himself with what 
the more fortunate individual has rejected. Yes ; it was 
out of a foolish bitterness of heart that I had spoken. 

"Go on before," said Priscilla, abruptly, and with 
true feminine imperiousness, which heretofore I had 
never seen her exercise. " It pleases me best to loiter 
along by myself. I do not walk so fast as you." 

With her hand, she made a little gesture of dismissal. 
It provoked me ; yet, on the whole, was the most be- 
witching thing that Priscilla had ever done. I obeyed 
her, and strolled moodily homeward, wondering — as I 
had wondered a thousand times already — how Hol- 
lingsworth meant to dispose of these two hearts, which 
(plainly to my perception, and, as I could not but now 



152 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

suppose, to his) he had engrossed into his own huge 
egotism. 

There was likewise another subject hardly less fruit- 
ful of speculation. In what attitude did Zenobia present 
herself to Hollingsworth ? Was it in that of a free 
woman, with no mortgage on her affections nor claimant 
to her hand, but fully at liberty to surrender both, in 
exchange for the heart and hand which she apparently 
expected to receive ? But was it a vision that I had 
witnessed in the wood ? Was Westervelt a goblin ? 
Were those words of passion and agony, which Zenobia 
had uttered in my hearing, a mere stage declamation ? 
Were they formed of a material lighter than common 
air ? Or, supposing them to bear sterling weight, was 
it not a perilous and dreadful wrong which she was 
meditating towards herself and Hollingsworth ? 

Arriving nearly at the farm-house, I looked back over 
the long slope of pasture -land, and beheld them standing 
together, in the light of sunset, just on the spot where, 
according to the gossip of the Community, they meant 
to build their cottage. Priscilla, alone and forgotten, 
was lingering in the shadow of the wood. 



^^ 



XV. 

A CRISIS. 

Thus the summer was passing away ; — a summer of 
toil, of interest, of something" that was not pleasure, but 
which went deep into my heart, and there became a rich 
experience. I found myself looking forward to years, if 
not to a lifetime, to be spent on the same system. The 
Community were now beginning to form their permanent 
plans. One of our purposes was to erect a Phalanstery 
(as I think we' called it, after Fourier ; but the phrase- 
ology of those days is not very fresh in my remem- 
brance), where the great and general family should have 
its abiding-place. Individual members, too, who made 
it a point of religion to preserve the sanctity of an ex- 
clusive home, were selecting sites for their cottages, by 
the wood-side, or on the breezy swells, or in the sheltered 
nook of some little valley, according as their taste might 
lean towards snugness or the picturesque. Altogether, 
by projecting our minds outward, we had imparted a 
show of novelty to existence, and contemplated it as 
hopefully as if the^oil beneath our feet had not been 
fathom-deep with the dust of deluded generations, on 
every one of which, as on ourselves, the world had 
imposed itself as a hitherto unwedded bride. 

Hollingsworth and myself had often discussedj:hese_ 
prospects. It was easy to perceive, however, that he 
spoke with little or no fervor, but either as questioning 



154 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

the fulfilment of our anticipations, or, at any rate, with a 
quiet consciousness that it was no personal concern of 
his. Shortly after the scene at Eliot's pulpit, while he 
and I were repairing an old stone fence, I amused myself 
with sallying forward into the future time. 

" When we come to be old men," I said, " they will 
call us uncles, or fathers, — Father Hollingsworth and 
Uncle Coverdale, — and we will look back cheerfully to 
these early days, and make a romantic story for the 
young people (and if a little more romantic than truth 
may warrant, it will be no harm) out of our severe trials 
and hardships. In a century or two, we shall, every 
one of us, be mythical personages, or exceedingly pictur- 
esque and poetical ones, at all events. They will have 
a great public hall, in which your portrait, and mine, 
and twenty other faces that are living now, shall be hung 
up ; and as for me, I will be painted in my shirt-sleeves, 
and with the sleeves rolled up, to show my muscular 
development. What stories will be rife among them 
about our mighty strength ! " continued I, lifting a big 
stone and putting it into its place ; " though our posterity 
will really be far stronger than ourselves^ after several 
generations of a simple, natural, and active life. What 
legends of Zenobia's beauty, and Priscilla's slender and 
shadowy grace, and those mysterious qualities which 
make her seem diaphanous with spiritual light ! In due 
course of ages, we must all figure heroically in an epic 
poem ; and we will ourselves — at least, I will — bend 
unseen over the future poet, and lend him inspiration 
while he writes it." 

" You seem," said Hollingsworth, " to be trying how 
much nonsense you can pour out in a breath." 



A CRISIS. 155 

"I wish you would see fit to comprehend," retorted 
I, " that the profoundest wisdom must be mingled with 
nine-tenths of nonsense, else it is not worth the breath 
that utters it. But I do long for the cottages to be built, 
that the creeping plants may begin to run over them, and 
the moss to gather on the walls, and the trees — which 
we will set out — to cover them with a breadth of 
shadow. This spick-and-span novelty does not quite 
suit my taste. It is time, too, for children to be born 
among us. The first-born child is still to come. And 
I shall never feel as if this were a real, practical, as well 
as poetical, system of human life, until somebody has 
sanctified it by death." 

" A pretty occasion for martyrdom, truly ! " said Hol- 
lings worth. 

" As good as any other," I replied. " I wonder, Hol- 
lingsworth, who, of all these -strong men, and fajr^omen^ 
and maidens, is doomed thelifst to die. Would it not 
be well, even before we have absolute need of it, to fix 
upon a spot for a cemetery ? Let us choose the rudest, 
roughest, most uncultivable spot, for Death's garden- 
ground ; and Death shall teach us to beautify it, grave 
by grave. By our sweet, calm way of dying, and the 
airy elegance out of which we will shape our funeral 
rites, and the cheerful allegories which we will model 
into tomb-stones, the final scene shall lose its terrors ; so 
that hereafter it may be happiness to live, and bliss to 
die. None of us must die young. Yet, should Provi- 
dence ordain it so, the event shall not be sorrowful, but 
affect us with a tender, delicious, only half melancholy 
and almost smiling pathos ! " 

" That is to say," muttered Rollings worth, " you will 



156 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

die like a heathen, as you certainly live like one. But, 
listen to me, Coverdale. Your fantastic anticipations 
^ make me discern all the more forcibly what a wretched, 
unsubstantial scheme is this, on which we have wasted a 
precious summer of our lives. Do you seriously imagine 
that any such realities as you, and many others here, 
have dreamed of, will ever be brought to pass ? " 

" Certainly, I do," said I. " Of course, w^hen the 
reality comes, it will wear the every-day, commonplace, 
dusty, and rather homely garb, that reality always does 
put on. But, setting aside the ideal charm, I hold that 
our highest anticipations have a solid footing on common 
sense." 

" You only half believe what you say," rejoined Hol- 
lingsworth ; " and as for me, I neither have faith in your 
dream, nor would care the value of this pebble for its 
realization, were that possible. And what more do you 
want of it ? It has given you a theme for poetry. Let 
that content you. But now I ask you to be, at last, a 
man of sobriety and earnestness, and aid me in an enter- 
prise which is worth all our strength, and the strength 
of a thousand mightier than we." 

There can be no need of giving in detail the conver- 
sation that ensued. It is enough to say that Hollings- 
worth once more brought forward his rigid and uncon- 
querable idea ; a scheme for the reformation of the 
wicked by methods moral, intellectual and industrial, by 
^ the sympathy of pure, humble, and yet exalted minds, 
and by opening to his pupils the possibility of a worthier 
life than that which had become their fate. It appeared, 
unless he over-estimated his own means,"th^t Hollings- 
worth held it at his choice (and he did so choose) to 



A CRISIS. 157 

obtain possession of the very ground on, which we h^d 
planted our Community, and which had not yet been 
made irrevocably ours, by purchase. It was just the 
foundation that he desired. Our beginnings might read- 
ily be adapted to his great end. The arrangements 
already completed would work quietly into his system. 
So plausible looked his theory, and, more than that, so 
practical, — such an air of reasonableness had he, by 
patient thought, thrown over it, — each segment of it 
was contrived to dove-tail into all the rest with such a 
complicated applicability, and so ready was he with a 
response for every objection, that, really, so far as logic 
and argument went, he had the matter all his own way. 

" But," said I, " whence can you, having no means of 
your own, derive the enormous capital w^hich is essential 
to this experiment ? State-street, I imagine, would not 
draw its purse-strings very liberally in aid of such a 
speculation." 

" I have the funds — as much, at least, as is needed for 
a commencement — at command," he answered. " They 
can be produced wdthin a month, if necessary." 

My thoughts reverted to Zenobia. It could only be 
her wealth which Hollingsworth was appropriating so 
lavishly. And on what conditions was it to be had? 
Did she fling it into the scheme with the uncalculating 
generosity that characterize^a-Avonian— ^^hen it is her 
impulse to be generous at all ? And did she fling herself 
along with it ? But Hollingsworth did not volunteer an 
explanation. 

" And have you no regrets," I inquired, *' in over- 
throwing this fair system of our new life, which has been 
planned so deeply, and is now beginning to flourish so 



158 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

hopefully around us ? How beautiful it is, and, so far as 
we can yet see, how practicable ! The ages have waited 
for us, and here we are, the very first that have essayed 
to carry on our mortal existence in love and mutual 
help ! Hollingsworth, I would be loth to take the ruin 
of this enterprise upon my conscience." 
^ ^, " Then let it rest wholly upon mine ! " he answered, 

\'/ knitting his black brows. " I see through the system. 
It is full of defects, — irremediable and damning ones ! 
— from first to last, there is nothing else ! I grasp it in 
my hand, and find no substance whatever. There is not 
human nature in it." 

" Why are you so secret in your operations ? " I 
asked. *' God forbid that I should accuse you of inten- 
tional wrong ; but the besetting sin of a philanthropist, 
it appears to me, is apt to be a moral obliquity. His 
sense of honor ceases to be the sense of other honorable 
men. At some point of his course — I know not exactly 
when or where — he is tempted to palter with the right, 
and can scarcely forbear persuading himself that the 
importance of his public ends renders it allowable to 
throw aside his private conscience. O, my dear friend, 
beware this error ! If you meditate the overthrow of this 
establishment, call together our companions, state your 
design, support it with all your eloquence, but allow them 
an opportunity of defending themselves." 

" It does not suit me," said Hollingsworth. " Nor is 
it my duty to do so." 

" I think it is," replied I. 

Hollingsworth frowned; not in passion, but, like fate, 
inexorably. 

*' I will not argue the point," said he. " What I 



A CRISIS. 159 

desire to know of you is, — and you can tell me in one 
word, — whether I am to look for your cooperation in 
this great scheme of good ? Take it up with me ! Be 
my brother in it ! It offers you (what you have told me, 
over and over again, that you most need) a purpose in 
life, worthy of the extremest self-devotion, — worthy of 
martyrdom, should God so order it ! In this view, I 
present it to you. You can greatly benefit mankind. 
Your peculiar faculties, as I shall direct them, are capable 
of being so wrought into this enterprise that not one of 
them need lie idle. Strike hands with me, and from 
this moment you shall never again feel the languor and 
vague wretchedness of an indolent or half-occupied man. 
There may be no more aimless beauty in your life ; but, 
in its stead, there shall be strength, courage, immitigable 
will — everything that a manly and generous nature 
should desire ! We shall succeed ! We shall have done 
our best for this miserable world ; and happiness (which 
never comes but incidentally) will come to us unawares." 

It seemed his intention to say no more. But, after he 
had quite broken off, his deep eyes filled with tears, and 
he held out both his hands to me. 

" Coverdale," he murmured, " there is not the man in ! 
this wide world whom I can love as I could you. Do i 
not forsake me ! " 

As I look back upon this scene, through the coldness 
and dimness of so many years, there is still a sensation 
as if HoUingsworth had caught hold of my heart, and 
were pulling it towards him with an almost irresist- 
ible force. It is a mystery to me how I withstood it. 
But, in truth, I saw in his scheme of philanthropy 
nothing but what was odious. A loathsomeness that 



160 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

was \o be forever in my daily work ! A great, black 
ugliness of sin, which he proposed to collect out of a 
thousand human hearts, and that we should spend our 
lives in an experiment of transmuting it into virtue ! Had 
I but touched his extended hand, Hollingsworth's mag- 
netism would perhaps have penetrated me with his own 
conception of all these matters. But I stood aloof. I 
fortified myself with doubts whether his strength of pur- 
pose had not been too gigantic for his integrity, impelling 
him to trample on considerations that should have been 
paramount to every other. 

" Is Zenobia to take a part in your enterprise ? " I 
asked. 

*' She is," said Rollings worth. 

" She ! — the beautiful ! — the gorgeous ! " I exclaimed. 
" And how have you prevailed with such a woman to 
work in this squalid element ? " 

" Through no base methods, as you seem to suspect," 
he answered ; " but by addressing whatever is best and 
noblest in her." 

Hollingsworth was looking on the ground. But, 
as he often did so, — generally, indeed, in his habitual 
moods of thought, — I could not judge whether it was 
from any special unwillingness now to meet my eyes. 
What it was that dictated my next question, I cannot 
precisely say. Nevertheless, it rose so inevitably into 
my mouth, and, as it were, asked itself ^o involuntarily, 
that there must needs have been an aptness in it. 

" What is to become of Priscilla ? " 

Hollingsworth looked at me fiercely, and with glowing 
eyes. He could not have shown any other land of 



A CRISIS. 161 

expression than that, had he meant to strike me with a 
sword. 

" Why do you bring in the names of these women ?" 
said he, after a moment of pregnant silence. " What 
have they to do with the proposal which I make you ? 
I must have your answer ! Will you devote yourself, 
and sacrifice all to this great end, and be my friend of 
friends forever ? " 

" In Heaven's name, Hollingsworth," cried I, getting 
angry, and glad to be angry, because so only was it pos- 
sible to oppose his tremendous concentrativeness and 
indomitable will, " cannot you conceive that a man may 
wish well to the world, and struggle for its good, on 
some other plan than precisely that which you have laid 
down ? And will you cast off a friend for no unworthi- 
ness, but merely because he stands upon his right as an 
individual being, and looks at matters through his own 
optics, instead of yours ? " 

" Be with me," said Hoi lings worth, " or be against^ ^^^uu.^^'^"' 
me ! There is no third choice for you." 

' Take this, then, as my decision," I answered. " I 
doubt the wisdom of your scheme. Furthermore, 1 
greatly fear that the methods by which you allow your- 
self to pursue it are such as cannot stand the scrutiny 
of an unbiassed conscience." 

" And you will not join me ?" 

"No!" 

I never said the word — and certainly can never have 
it to say hereafter — that cost me a thousandth part so 
hard an effort as did that one syllable. The heart-pang 
was not merely figurative, but an absolute torture of the 
breast. I was gazing steadfastly at Hollingsworth. It 
11 



162 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

seemed to me that it struck him, too, like a bullet. A 
ghastly paleness — always so terrific on a swarthy face 
— overspread his features. There was a convulsive 
movement of his throat, as if he were forcing down some 
words that struggled and fought for utterance. Whether 
words of anger, or words of grief, I cannot tell; although, 
many and many a time, I have vainly tormented myself 
with conjecturing which of the two they were. One 
other appeal to my friendship, — such as once, already, 
HoUingsworth had made, — taking me in the revulsion 
that followed a strenuous exercise of opposing will, 
would completely have subdued me. But he left the 
matter there. 

"Well! "said he. 

And that was all ! I should have been thankful for 
one word more, even had it shot me through the heart, 
as mine did him. But he did not speak it; and, after 
a few moments, with one accord, we set to work again, 
repairing the stone fence. HoUingsworth, I observed. 
Wrought like a Titan; and, for my own part, I lifted 
sfcnes which at this day — or, in a calmer mood, at 
xjhat one — I should no more have thought it possible to 
stir than to carry off the gates of Gaza on my back. 



XVI. 

LEAVE-TAKINGS. 

A FEW days after the tragic passage-at-arms between 
Hollingsworth and me, I appeared at the dinner-table 
actually dressed in a coat, instead of my customary 
blouse ; with a satin cravat, too, a white vest, and sev- 
eral other things that made me seem strange and out- 
landish to myself. As for my companions, this un- 
wonted spectacle caused a great stir upon the wooden 
benches that bordered either side of our homely board. 

" What 's in the wind now, Miles ? " asked one of 
them. " Are you deserting us ?" 

" Yes, for a week or two," said I. " It strikes me 
that my health demands a little relaxation of labor, and 
a short visit to the sea-side, during the dog-days." 

" You look like it ! " grumbled Silas Foster, not 
greatly pleased with the idea of losing an efficient 
laborer before the stress of the season was well over. 
" Now, here 's a pretty fellow ! His shoulders have 
broadened a matter of six inches, since he came among 
us ; he can do his day's work, if he likes, with any man 
or ox on the farm ; and yet he talks about going to the 
sea-shore for his health ! Well, well, old woman," 
added he to his wife, " let me have a plateful of that 
pork and cabbage ! I begin to feel in a very weakly 
way. When the others have had their turn, you and I 
will take a jaunt to Newport or Saratoga ! " 



164 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

" Well, but, Mr. Foster," said I, " you must allow 
me to take a little breath." 

" Breath ! '' retorted the old yeoman. " Your lungs 
have the play of a pair of blacksmith's bellows already. 
What on earth do you want more ? But go along ! I 
understand the business. We shall never see your 
face here a2:ain. Here ends the reformation of the 
world, so far as Miles Coverdale has a hand in it ! " 

" By no means," I replied. " I am resolute to die in 
the last ditch, for the good of the cause." 

" Die in a ditch ! " muttered gruff Silas, with genuine 
Yankee intolerance of any intermission of toil, except on 
Sunday, the fourth of July, the autumnal cattle-show, 
Thanksgiving, or the annual Fast. *' Die in a ditch ! 
I believe, in my conscience, you would, if there were no 
steadier means than your own labor to keep you out 
of it!" 

The truth was, that an intolerable discontent and 
irksomeness had come over me. Blithedale was no 
longer what it had been. Everything was suddenly 
faded. The sun-burnt and arid aspect of our woods and 
pastures, beneath the August sky, did but imperfectly 
symbolize the lack of dew and moisture that, since yes- 
terday, as it were, had blighted my fields of thought, 
and penetrated to the innermost and shadiest of my 
contemplative recesses. The change will be recognized 
by many, who, after a period of happiness, have endeav- 
ored to go on with the same kind of life, in the same 
scene, in spite of the alteration or withdrawal of some 
principal circumstance. They discover (what heretofore, 
perhaps, they had not known) that it was this which gave 
the bright color and vivid reality to the whole affair. 



LEAVE-TAKINGS. 165 

I stood on other terms than before, not only with 
Hollings,vvorth, but with Zenobia and Priscilla. As 
regarded the two latter, it was that dream-like and 
miserable sort of change that denies you the privi- 
lege to complain, because you can assert no positive 
injury, nor lay your finger on anything tangible. It is 
a matter which you do not see, but feel, and which, 
w^hen you try to analyze it, seems to lose its very exist- 
ence, and resolve itself into a sickly humor of your own. 
Your understanding, possibly, may put faith in this 
denial. But your heart will not so easily rest satisfied. 
It incessantly remonstrates, though, most of the time, in 
a bass-note, which you do not separately distinguish ; 
but, now and then, with a sharp cry, importunate to be 
heard, and resolute to claim belief. '* Things are not as 
they were ! " it keeps saying. " You shall not impose 
on me ! I will never be quiet ! I will throb painfully ! 
I will be heavy, and desolate, and shiver with cold ! 
For I, your deep heart, know when to be miserable, as 
once I knew when to be happy ! All is changed for 
us ! You are beloved no more ! " And, were my life 
to be spent over again, I would invariably lend my 
ear to this Cassandra of the inward depths, however 
clamorous the music and the merriment of a more super- 
ficial region. 

My outbreak with Hollingsworth, though never defi- 
nitely known to our associates, had really an effect upon 
the moral atmosphere of the Community. It was inci- 
dental to the closeness of relationship into which we had 
brought ourselves, that an unfriendly state of feeling 
could not occur between any two members, without the 
whole society being more or less commoted and made 



166 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

uncomfortable thereby. This species of nervous sym- 
pathy (though a pretty characteristic enough, sentiment- 
ally considered, and apparently betokening an actual 
bond of love among us) was yet found rather inconven- 
ient in its practical operation ; mortal tempers being so 
infirm and variable as they are. If one of us happened 
to give his neighbor a box on the ear, the tingle was 
immediately felt on the same side of everybody's head. 
Thus, even on the supposition that we were far less 
quarrelsome than the rest of the world, a great deal of 
time was necessarily wasted in rubbing our ears. 

Musing on all these matters, I felt an inexpressible 
longing for at least a temporary novelty. I thought of 
going across the Rocky Mountains, or to Europe, or up 
the Nile ; of offering myself a volunteer on the Explor- 
ing Expedition ; of taking a ramble of years, no matter 
in what direction, and coming back on the other side of 
the world. Then, should the colonists of Blithedale 
have established their enterprise on a permanent basis, I 
might fling aside my pilgrim staff and dusty shoon, and 
rest as peacefully here as elsewhere. Or, in case Rol- 
lings worth should occupy the ground with his School 
of Refor m, as h e now purposed, I might plead earthly 
guilt enough, by that time, to give me what I was 
inclined to think the only trustworthy hold on his affec- 
tions. Meanwhile, before deciding on any ultimate 
plan, I determined to remove myself to a little distance, 
and take an exterior view of what we had all been about. 

In truth, it was dizzy work, amid such fermentation 
of opinions as was going on in the general brain of the 
Community. It was a kind of Bedlam, for the time 
being; although out of the very thoughts that were 



LEAVE-TAKINGS. 167 

wildest and most destructive might grow a wisdom 
holy, cahn and pure, and that should incarnate itself 
with the substance of a noble and happy life. But, as 
matters now were, I felt myself (and, having a decided 
tendency towards the actual, I never liked to feel it) get- 
ting quite out of my reckoning, with regard to the exist- 
ing state of the world. I was beginning to lose the sense 
of what kind of a world it was, among innumeraBTe 
schemes of what it might or ought to be. It was im- 
possible, situated as we were, not to imbibe the idea that 
everything in nature and human existence was fluid, or 
fast becoming so ; that the crust of the earth in many 
places was broken, and its whole surface portentously 
upheaving; that it was a day of crisis, and that we our- 
selves were in the critical vortex. Our great globe 
floated in the atmosphere of infinite space like an un- 
substantial bubble. No sagacious man will long retain 
his sag-acity, if he live exclusively among reformers and 
progressive people, without periodically returning into 
the settled system of things, to correct himself by a new 
observation from that old stand-point. 

It was now time for me, therefore, to go and hold a 
little talk with the conservatives, the writers of the North 
American Review, the merchants, the politicians, the 
Cambridge men, and all those respectable old blockheads 
who still, in this intangibility and mistiness of affairs, 
kept a death-grip on one or two ideas which had not 
come into vogue since yesterday morning. 

The brethren took leave of me with cordial kindness ; 
and as for the sisterhood, I had serious thoughts of kiss- 
ing them all round, but forebore to do so, because, in 
all such general salutations, the penance is fully equal to 



168 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

the pleasure. So I kissed none of them ; and nobody, 
to say the truth, seemed to expect it. 

" Do you wish me," I said to Zenobia, " to announce, 
in town and at the w^atering-places, your p urpose to 
deliver a courseof jectures on the rights of women ? " 
' ^^ Wome p possess no ri gjits^said Zenobia, with a 
half-melancholy smile ; " or, at all events, only little 
girls_and grandmothers would have the force to exercise 
them." 

She gave me her hand freely and kindly, and looked 
at me, I thought, with a pitying expression in her eyes ; 
nor was there any settled light of joy in them on her 
own behalf, but a troubled and passionate flame, flicker- 
ing and fitful. 

" I regret, on the whole, that you are leaving us," she 
said ; " and all the more, since I feel that this phase of 
our life is finished, and can never be lived over again. 
Do you know, Mr. Coverdale, that I have been several 
times on the point of making you my confidant, for lack 
of a better and w4ser one ? But you are too young to 
be my father confessor ; and you would not thank me 
for treating you like one of those good little handmaidens 
who share the bosom secrets of a tragedy-queen." 

" I would, at least, be loyal and faithful," answered I; 
" and would counsel you with an honest purpose, if not 
wisely." 

" Yes," said Zenobia, " you would be only too wise, 
too honest. Honesty and wisdom are such a delightful 
pastime, at another person's expense ! " 

"Ah, Zenobia," I exclaimed, "if you would but let 
me speak ! " 

" By no means," she replied, " especially when you 



# LEAVE-TAKINGS. 169 

have just resumed the whole series of social convention- 
alisms, together with that straight-bodied coat. I would 
as lief open my heart to a lawyer or a clergyman ! No, 
no, Mr. Coverdale ; if I choose a counsellor, in the pres- 
ent aspect of my affairs, it must be either an angel or a 
madman ; and I rather apprehend that the latt er would 
be likeliest of the two to speak the fitting w^ord. It 
needs a wild steersman when we voyage through chaos ! 
The anchor is up — farewell I " 

Priscilla, as soon as dinner was over, had betaken her- 
self into a corner, and set to work on a little purse. As 
I approached her, she let her eyes rest on me with a 
calm, serious look; for, with all her delicacy of nerves, 
there was a singular self-possession in Priscilla, and her 
sensibilities seemed to lie sheltered from ordinary com- 
motion, like the water in a deep well. 

"Will you give me that purse, Priscilla," said I, " as 
a parting keepsake ? " 

" Yes," she answered, " if you will wait till it is 
finished." 

** I must not wait, even for that," I replied. " Shall I 
find you here, on my return ? " 

" I never wish to go away," said she. 

" I have sometimes thought," observed I, smiling, 
" that you, Priscilla, are a little prophetess : or, at least, 
that you have spiritual intimations respecting matters 
which are dark to us grosser people. If that be the 
case, I should like to ask you what is about to happen ; 
for I am tormented with a strong foreboding that, were 
I to return even so soon as to-morrow morning, I should 
find everything changed. Have you any impressions of 
this nature ? " 



170 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. • 

"Ah, no," said Priscilla, looking at me apprehen- 
sively. *' If any such misfortune is corning, the shadow 
has not reached me yet. Heaven forbid ! I should be 
glad if there might never be any change, but one sum- 
mer follow another, and all just like this." 

" No summer ever came back, and no two summers 
ever were alike,*' said I, with a degree of Orphic wisdom 
that astonished myself. " Times change, and people 
change ; and if our hearts do not change as readily, so 
much the worse for us. Good-by, Priscilla ! " 

I gave her hand a pressure, which, I think, she neither 
resisted nor returned. Priscilla's hearijwas deepjbut_of . 
small compass ; it had room but for a very few dearest 
ones, among whom she never reckoned me. 

On the door-step I met HoUingsworth. I had a mo- 
mentary impulse to hold out my hand, or at least to give 
a parting nod, but resisted both. When a real and 
strong affection has come to an end, it is not well to 
mock the sacred past with any show of those common- 
place civilities that belong to ordinary intercourse. Being 
dead henceforth to him, and he to me, there could be no 
propriety in our chilling one another with the touch of 
two corpse-like hands, or playing at looks of courtesy 
with eyes that were impenetrable beneath the glaze and 
the film. We passed, therefore, as if mutually invis- 
ible. 

I can nowise explain what sort of whim, prank or per- 
versity, it was, that, after all these leave-takings, induced 
me to go to the pig-sty, and take leave of the swine ! 
There they lay, buried as deeply among the straw as 
they could burrow, four huge black grunters, the very 
symbols of slothful ease and sensual comfort. They 



LEAVE-TAKINGS. 171 

were asleep, drawing short and heavy breaths, which 
heaved their big sides up and down, Unclosing their 
eyes, however, at my approach, they looked dimly forth 
at the outer world, and simultaneously uttered a gentle 
grunt ; not putting themselves to the trouble of an addi- 
tional breath for that particular purpose, but grunting 
with their ordinary inhalation. They were involved, 
and almost stifled and buried alive, in their own corpo- 
real substance. The very unreadiness and oppression 
wherewith these greasy citizens gained breath enough to 
keep their life-machinery in sluggish movement, ap- 
peared to make them only the more sensible of the pon- 
derous and fat satisfaction of their existence. Peeping 
at me, an instant, out of their small, red, hardly percepti- 
ble eyes, they dropt asleep again ; yet not so far asleep 
but that their unctuous bliss was still present to them, 
betwixt dream and reality. 

*' You must come back in season to eat part of a 
spare-rib," said Silas Foster, giving my hand a mighty 
squeeze. *'I shall have these fat fellows hanging up by 
the heels, heads downward, pretty soon, I tell you ! " 

" 0, cruel Silas, what a horrible idea ! " cried I. " All 
the rest of us, men, women and live-stock, save only 
these four porkers, are bedevilled with one grief or an- 
other; they alone are happy, — and you mean to cut 
their throats and eat them ! It would be more for the 
general comfort to let them eat us ; and bitter and sour 
morsels we should be ! " 



XVIL 

THE HOTEL. 

Arriving in town (where my bachelor-rooms, long 
before this time, had received some other occupant), I 
established myself, for a day or two, in a certain respect- 
g^ble hotel. It was situated somewhat aloof from my 
former track in life ; my present mood inclining me to 
avoid most of my old companions, from whom 1 was 
now sundered by other interests, and who would have 
been likely enough to amuse themselves at the expense 
of the amateur working-man. The hotel-keeper put me 
into a back-room of the third story of his spacious estab- 
lishment. The day was lowering, with occasional gusts 
of rain, and an ugly-tempered east wind, which seemed 
to come right off the chill and melancholy sea, hardly 
mitigated by sweeping over the roofs, and amalgamating 
itself with the dusky element of city smoke. All the 
effeminacy of past days had returned upon me at once. 
Summer as it still was, I ordered a coal-fire in the rusty 
grate, and was glad to find myself growing a little too 
warm with an artificial temperature. 

My sensations were those of a traveller, long sojourn- 
ing in remote regions, and at length sitting down again 
amid customs once familiar. There was a newness and 
an oldness oddly combining themselves into one impres- 
sion. It made me acutely sensible how strange a piece 
of mosaic-work had lately been wrought into my life. 



THE HOTEL. 173 

True, if you look at it in one way, it had been only a 
summer in the country. But, considered in a profounder 
relation, it was part of another age, a different state of 
society, a segment of an existence peculiar in its aims and 
methods, a leaf of some mysterious volume interpolated 
into the current history which time was writing off. At 
one moment, the very circumstances now surrounding 
me — my coal-fire, and the dingy room in the bustling 
hotel — appeared far off and intangible ; the next instant 
Blithedale looked vague, as if it were at a distance 
both in time and space, and so shadowy that a question 
might be raised whether the whole affair had been any- 
thing more than the thoughts of a speculative man. I 
had never before experienced a mood that so robbed th^ 
actual world of its solidity. It nevertheless involved a 
charm, on which — a devoted epicure of my own emo- 
tions — I resolved to pause, and enjoy the moral sillabub 
until quite dissolved away. 

Whatever had been my taste for solitude and natural 
scenery, yet the thick, foggy, stifled element of cities, 
the entangled life of many men together, sordid as it 
was, and empty of the beautiful, took quite as strenuous 
a hold upon my mind. I felt as if there could never be 
enough of it. Each characteristic sound was too sug- 
gestive to be passed over unnoticed. Beneath and 
around me, I heard the stir of the hotel ; the loud voices 
of guests, landlord, or bar-keeper ; steps echoing on the 
stair-case ; the ringing of a bell, announcing arrivals or 
departures ; the porter lumbering past my door with bag- 
gage, which he thumped down upon the floors of neigh- 
boring chambers ; the lighter feet of chamber-maids 
scudding along the passages ; — it is ridiculous to think 



174 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

what an interest they had for me ! From the street 
came the tumult of the pavements, pervading the whole 
house with a continual uproar, so broad and deep that 
only an unaccustomed ear would dwell upon it. A 
company of the city soldiery, with a full military band, 
marched in front of the hotel, invisible to me, but stir- 
ringly audible both by its foot-tramp and the clangor of 
its instruments. Once or twice all the city bells jangled 
together, announcing a fire, which brought out the 
engine-men and their machines, like an army with its 
artillery rushing to battle. Hour by hour the clocks in 
man}^ steeples responded one to another. In some public 
hall, not a great way off, there seemed to be an exhibi- 
tion of a mechanical diorama; for, three times during 
the day, occurred a repetition of obstreperous music, 
winding up with the rattle of imitative cannon and 
musketry, and a huge final explosion. Then ensued the 
applause of the spectators, with clap of hands, and 
thump of sticks, and the energetic pounding of their 
heels. All this was just as valuable, in its way, as the 
sighing of the breeze among the birch-trees that over- 
shadowed Eliot's pulpit. 

Yet I felt a hesitation about plunging into this muddy 
tide of human activity and pastime. It suited me better, 
for the present, to linger on the brink, or hover in the 
air above it. So I spent the first day and the greater 
part of the second in the laziest manner possible, in a 
rocking-chair, inhaling the fragrance of a series of cigars, 
with my legs and slippered feet horizontally disposed, 
and in my hand a novel purchased of a railroad biblio- 
polist. The gradual waste of my cigar accomplished 
itself with an easy and gentle expenditure of breath. My 



THE HOTEL. 175 

book was of the dullest, yet had a sort of sluggish flow, 
like that of a stream in which your boat is as often 
aground as afloat. Had there been a more impetuous 
rush, a more absorbing passion of the narrative, I should 
the sooner have struggled out of its uneasy current, and 
have given myself up to the swell and subsidence of my 
thoughts. But, as it was, the torpid life of the book 
served as an unobtrusive accompaniment to the life 
within me and about me. At intervals, however, when 
its effect grew a little too soporific, — not for my 
patience, but for the possibility of keeping my eyes open, 
— I bestirred myself, started from the rocking-chair, and 
looked out of the window. 

A gray sky ; the weathercock of a steeple, that rose 
beyond the opposite range of buildings, pointing from the 
eastward ; a sprinkle of small, spiteful-looking raindrops 
on the window-pane. In that ebb-tide of my energies, 
had I thought of venturing abroad, these tokens would 
have checked the abortive purpose. 

After several such visits to the window, I found 
myself getting pretty well acquainted with that little 
portion of the backside of the universe which it presented 
to my view. Over against the hotel and its adjacent 
houses, at the distance of forty or fifty yards, was the 
rear of a range of buildings, which appeared to be 
spacious, modern, and calculated for fashionable resi- 
dences. The interval between was apportioned into 
grass-plots, and here and there an apology for a garden, 
pertaining severally to these dwellings. There were 
apple-trees, and pear and peach trees, too, the fruit on 
which looked singularly large, luxuriant and abundant ; 
as well it might, in a situation so warm and sheltered. 



176 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

and where the soil had doubtless been enriched to a 
more than natural fertility. In two or three places 
grape-vines clambered upon trellises, and bore clusters 
already purple, and promising the richness of Malta or 
Madeira in their ripened juice. The blighting wtnds of 
our rigid climate could not molest these trees and vines ; 
the sunshine, though descending late into this area, and 
too early intercepted by the height of the surrounding 
houses, yet lay tropically there, even when less than 
temperate in every other region. Dreary as was the 
day, the scene was illuminated by not a few sparrows and 
other birds, which spread their wings, and flitted and 
fluttered, and alighted now here, now there, and busily 
scratched their food out of the wormy earth. Most of 
these winged people seemed to have their domicile in a 
robust and healthy buttonwood-tree. It aspired upward, 
high above the roof of the houses, and spread a dense 
head of foliage half across the area. 

There was a cat — as there invariably is, in such 
places — who evidently thought herself entitled to all 
the privileges of forest-life, in this close heart of city 
conventionalisms. I watched her creeping along the 
low, flat roofs of the offices, descending a flight of 
wooden steps, gliding among the grass, and besieging 
the buttonwood-tree, with murderous purpose against its 
feathered citizens. But, after all, they were birds of 
city breeding, and doubtless knew how to guard them- 
selves against the peculiar perils of their position. 

Bewitching to my fancy are all those nooks and cran- 
nies, where Nature, like a stray partridge, hides her head 
among the long-established haunts of men ! It is like- 
wise to be remarked, as a general rule, that there is far 



THE HOTEL. 177 

more of the picturesque, more truth to native and 
characteristic tendencies, and vastly greater suggestive- 
ness, in the back view of a residence, whether in town 
or country, than in its front. The latter is always arti- 
ficial ; it is meant for the world's eye, and is therefore a 
veil and a concealment. Realities keep in the rear, and 
put forward an advance-guard of show and humbug. 
The posterior aspect of any old farm-house, behind which 
a railroad has unexpectedly been opened, is so different 
from that looking upon the immemorial highway, that 
the spectator gets new ideas of rural life and individu- 
ality in the puff or two of steam-breath which shoots 
him past the premises. In a city, the distinction be- 
tween what is offered to the public and what is kept for 
the family is certainly not less striking. 

But, to return to nly window, at the back of the hotel. 
Together with a due contemplation of the fruit-trees, 
the grape-vines, the button wood-tree, the cat, the birds, 
and many other particulars, I failed not to study the row 
of fashionable dwellings to which all these appertained. 
Here, it must be confessed, there was a general same- 
ness. From the upper story to the first floor, they were 
so much alike, that I could only conceive of the inhab- 
itants as cut out on one identical pattern, like little 
wooden toy-people of German manufacture. One long, 
united roof, with its thousands of slates glittering in the 
rain, extended over the whole. After the distinctness 
of separate characters to which I had recently been 
accustomed, it perplexed and annoyed me not to be able 
to resolve this combination of human interests into well- 
defined elements. It seemed hardly worth while for 
more than one of those families to be in existence, since 
12 



17S THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

they all had the same glimpse of the sky, all looked into 
the same area, all received just their equal share of sun- 
shine through the front windows, and all listened to 
precisely the same noises of the street on which they 
boarded. Men are so much alike in their nature, that 
they grow intolerable unless varied by their circum- 
stances. 

Just about this time, a waiter entered my room. The 
truth was, I had rung the bell and ordered a sherry- 
cobbler. 

" Can you tell me," I inquired, " what families reside 
in any of those houses opposite ? " 

" The one right opposite is a rather stylish boarding- 
house," said the w^aiter. " Two of the gentlemen- 
boarders keep horses at the stable of our establishment. 
They do things in very good style, sir, the people that 
live there." 

I might have found out nearly as much for myself, on 
examining the house a little more closely. In one of 
the upper chambers I saw a young man in a dressing- 
gown, standing before the glass and brushing his hair, 
for a quarter of an hour together. He then spent an 
equal space of time in the elaborate arrangement of his 
cravat, and finally made his appearance in a dress-coat, 
which I suspected to be newly come from the tailor's, 
and now first put on for a dinner-party. At a window 
of the next story below, two children, prettily dressed, 
were looking out. By and by, a middle-aged gentleman 
came softly behind them, kissed the little girl, and play- 
fully pulled the little boy's ear. It was a papa, no 
doubt, just come in from his counting-room or office ; 
and anon appeared mamma, stealing as softly behind 



THE HOTEL. 179 

papa as he had stolen behind the children, and laying 
her hand on his shoulder, to surprise him. Then fol- 
lowed a kiss between papa and mamma ; but a noiseless 
one, for the children did not turn their heads. 

" I bless God for these good folks ! " thought I to my- 
self. " I have not seen a prettier bit of nature, in all 
my summer in the country, than they have shown me 
Here, in a rather stylish boarding-house. I will pay 
them a little more attention, by and by." 

On the first floor, an iron balustrade ran along in 
front of the tall and spacious windows, evidently belong- 
ing to a back drawing-room ; and, far into the interior, 
through the arch of the sliding-doors, I could discern a 
gleam from the windows of the front apartment. There 
were no signs of present occupancy in this suite of rooms ; 
the curtains being enveloped in a protective covering, 
which allowed but a small portion of their crimson mate- 
rial to be seen. But two housemaids were industriously at 
work ; so that there was good prospect that the boarding- 
house might not long suffer from the absence of its most 
expensive and profitable guests. Meanwhile, until they 
should appear, I cast my eyes downward to the lower 
regions. There, in the dusk that so early settles into 
such places, I saw the red glow of the kitchen-range. 
The hot cook, or one of her subordinates, with a ladle in 
her hand, came to draw a cool breath at the back-door. 
As soon as she disappeared, an Irish man-servant, in a 
white jacket, crept slyly forth, and threw away the frag- 
ments of a china dish, which, unquestionably, he had 
just broken. Soon afterwards, a lady, showily dressed, 
with a curling front of what must have been false hair, 
and reddish-brown, I suppose, in hue, — though my 



180 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

remoteness allowed me only to guess at such particulars, 
— this respectable mistress of the boarding-house made 
a momentary transit across the kitchen window, and 
appeared no more. It was her final, comprehensive 
glance, in order to make sure that soup, fish and flesh, 
were in a proper state of readiness, before the serving up 
of dinner. 

There was nothing else worth noticing about the 
house, unless it be that on the peak of one of the 
dormer-windows which opened out of the roof sat a 
dove, looking very dreary and forlorn ; insomuch that I 
wondered why she chose to sit there, in the chilly rain, 
while her kindred were doubtless nestling in a warm and 
comfortable dove-cote. All at once, this dove spread her 
wings, and, launching herself in the air, came flying so 
straight across the intervening space that I fully expected 
her to alight directly on my window-sill. In the latter 
part of her course, however, she swerved aside, flew 
upward, and vanished, as did, likewise, the slight, fan- 
tastic pathos with which I had invested her. 



XVIII. 

THE BOARDING-HOUSE. 

The next day, as soon as I thought of looking again 
towards the opposite house, there sat the dove again, on 
the peak of the same dormer-window ! 

It was by no means an early hour, for, the preceding 
evening, I had ultimately mustered enterprise enough 
to visit the theatre, had gone late to bed, and slept 
beyond all limit, in my remoteness from Silas Foster's 
awakening horn. Dreams had tormented me, through- 
out the night. The train of thoughts which) for months 
past, had worn a track through my mind, and to escape 
which was one of my chief objects in leaving Blithedale, 
kept treading remorselessly to and fro in their old foot- 
steps, while slumber left me impotent to regulate them. 
It was not till I had quitted my three friends that they 
first began to encroach upon my dreams. In those of 
the last night, Hollingsworth and Zenobia, standing on 
either side of my bed, had bent across it to exchange a 
kiss of passion. Priscilla, beholding this, — for she 
seemed to be peeping in at the chamber-window, — had 
melted gradually away, and left only the sadness of her 
expression in my heart. There it still lingered, after I 
awoke ; one of those unreasonable sadnesses that you 
knc AT not how to deal with, because it involves nothing 
for common sense to clutch. 

It was a gray and dripping forenoon ; gloomy enough 



182 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

in town, and still gloomier in the haunts to which my 
recollections persisted in transporting me. For, in spite 
of my efforts to think of something else, I thought how 
the gusty rain was drifting over the slopes and valleys 
of our farm ; how wet must be the foliage that over- 
shadowed the pulpit-rock ; how cheerless, in such a day, 
my hermitage, — the tree-solitude of my owl-like hu- 
mors, — in the vine-encircled heart of the tall pine ! It 
was a phase of home-sickness. I had wrenched myself 
too suddenly out of an accustomed sphere. There was 
no choice, now, but to bear the pang of whatever heart- 
strings were snapt asunder, and that illusive torment 
(like the ache of a limb long ago cut off) by which a 
past mode of life prolongs itself into the succeeding one. 
I was full of idle and shapeless regrets. The thought 
impressed itself upon me that I had left duties unper- 
formed. With the power, perhaps, to act in the place 
of destiny and avert misfortune from my friends, I had 
resigned them to their fate. That cold tendency, be- 
tween instinct and intellect, which made me pry with a 
speculative interest into people's passions and impulses, 
appeared to have gone far towards unhumanizing my 
heart. 

But a man cannot always decide for himself whether 
his own heart is cold or warm. It now impresses me 
that, if I erred at all in regard to Hollingsworth, Zeno- 
bia and Priscilla, it was through too much sympathy, 
rather than too little. 

To escape the irksomeness of these meditations, I 
resumed my post at the window. At first sight, there 
was nothing new to be noticed. The general aspect of 
affairs was the same as yesterday, except that the more 



THE BOARDING-HOUSE. 183 

decided inclemency of to-day had driven the sparrows to 
shelter, and kept the cat within doors ; whence, how- 
ever, she soon emerged, pursued by the cook, and with 
what looked like the better half of a roast chicken in 
her mouth. The young man in the dress-coat was invis- 
ible ; the two children, in the story below, seemed to be 
romping about the room, under the superintendence of a 
nursery-maid. The damask curtains of the drawing- 
room, on the first floor, were now fully displayed, fes- 
tooned gracefully from top to bottom of the windows, 
which extended from the ceiling to the carpet. A nar- 
rower window, at the left of the drawing-room, gave 
light to what was probably a small boudoir, within which 
I caught the faintest imaginable glimpse of a girl's figure, 
in airy drapery. Her arm was in regular movement, as 
if she were busy with her German worsted, or some 
other such pretty and unprofitable handiwork. 

While intent upon making out this girlish shape, I 
became sensible that a figure had appeared at one of the 
windows of the drawing-room. There was a present- 
iment in my mind ; or perhaps my first glance, imper- 
fect and sidelong as it was, had sufficed to convey subtle 
information of the truth. At any rate, it was with no 
positive surprise, but as if I had all along expected the 
incident, that, directing my eyes thitherward, I beheld — 
like a full-length picture, in the space between the heavy 
festoons of the window-curtains — no other than Zeno- 
bia ! At the same instant, my thoughts made sure of 
the identity of the figure in the boudoir. It could only 
be Priscilla. 

Zenobia was attired, not in the almost rustic costume 
which she had heretofore worn, but in a fashionable 



184 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

inorning-dress. There was, nevertheless, one familiar 
point. She had, as usual, a flower in her hair, brilliant 
and of a rare variety, else it had not been Zenobia. 
After a brief pause at the window, she turned away, 
exemplifying, in the few steps that removed her out of 
sight, that noble and beautiful motion which character- 
ized her as much as any other personal charm. Not 
one_woniaJlJuaja thousand could move so admirably as 
Zenobia. Many women can sit gracefully ; ^sortie can 
stand gracefully; and a few, perhaps, can assume a 
series of graceful positions. But natural movement is 
the result and expression of the whole being, and cannot 
be well and nobly performed, unless responsive to some- 
thing in the character. I often used to think that music 
— light and airy, wild and passionate, or the full har- 
mony of stately marches, in accordance with her varying 
mood — should have attended Zenobia's footsteps. 

I waited for her reappearance. It was one peculiarity, 
distinguishing Zenobia from most of her sex, that she 
needed for her moral well-being, and never would forego, 
a large amount of physical exercise. At Blithedale, no 
inclemency of sky or muddiness of earth had ever im- 
peded her daily walks. Here, in town, she probably 
preferred to tread the extent of the two drawing-rooms, 
and measure out the miles by spaces of forty feet, rather 
than bedraggle her skirts over the sloppy pavements. 
Accordingly, in about the time requisite to pass through 
the arch of the sliding-doors to the front window, and to 
return upon her steps, there she stood again, between the 
festoons of the crimson curtains. But another person- 
age was now added to the scene. Behind Zenobia 
appeared that face which I had first encountered in the 



THE BOARDING-HOUSE. 185 

wood-path ; the man who had passed, side by side with 
her, in such mysterious familiarity and estrangement, 
beneath my vine-curtained hermitage in the tall pine- 
tree. It was Westervelt. And though he was looking 
closely over her shoulder, it still seemed to me, as on the 
former occasion, that Zenobia repelled him, — that, per- 
chance, they mutually repelled each other, by some 
incompatibility of their spheres. 

This impression, however, might have been altogether 
the result of fancy and prejudice in me. The distance 
was so great as to obliterate any play of feature by 
which I might otherwise have been made a partaker of 
their counsels. 

There now needed only Hollingsworth and old Moodie 
to complete the knot of characters, whom a real intricacy 
of events, greatly assisted by my method of insulating 
them from other relations, had kept so long upon my 
mental stage, as actors in a drama. In itself, perhaps, 
it was no very remarkable event that they should thus 
come across me, at the moment when I imagined myself 
free. Zenobia, as I well knew, had retained an estab- 
lishment in town, and had not unfrequently withdrawn 
herself from Blithedale during brief intervals, on one 
of which occasions she had taken Priscilla along with 
her. Nevertheless, there seemed something fatal in the 
coincidence that had borne me to this one spot, of all 
others in a great city, and transfixed me there, and com- 
pelled me again to waste my already wearied sympathies 
on affairs which were none of mine, and persons who 
cared little for me. It irritated my nerves ; it affected 
me with a kind of heart-sickness. After the effort which 
it cost me to fling them off, — after consummating my 



186 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

escape, as I thought, from these goblins of flesh and 
blood, and pausing to revive myself with a breath or two 
of an atmosphere in which they should have no share, 
— it was a positive despair, to find the same figures 
arraying themselves before me, and presenting their old 
problem in a shape that made it more insoluble than 
ever. 

I began to long for a catastrophe. If the noble tem- 
per of Hollingsworth's soul were doomed to be utterly 
corrupted by the too powerful purpose which had grown 
out of what was noblest in him; i£jhe ^rich and g ener- 
ous qualities of Zenobia's w omanhood might y not save 
her; if Priscilla must perish by her tenderness and 
faith, so simple and so devout, — then be it so ! Let it 
all come ! As for me, I would look on, as it seemed my 
part to do, understandingly, if my intellect could fathom 
the meaning and the moral, and, at all events, reverently 
and sadly. The curtain fallen, I would pass onward 
with my poor individual life, which was now attenuated 
of much of its proper substance, and diffused among 
many alien interests. 

Meanwhile, Zenobia and her companion had retreated 
from the window. Then followed an interval, during 
which I directed my eyes towards the figure in the bou- 
doir. Most certainly it was Priscilla, although dressed 
with a novel and fanciful elegance. The vague percep- 
tion of it, as viewed so far off, impressed me as if she 
had suddenly passed out of a chrysalis state and put 
forth wings. Her hands were not now in motion. She 
had dropt her work, and sat with her head thrown back, 
in the same attitude that I had seen several times before, 



THE BOARDING-HOUSE. 187 

when she seemed to be listening to an imperfectly dis- 
tinguished sound. 

Again the two figures in the drawing-room became 
visible. They were now a little withdrawn from the 
window, face to face, and, as I could see by Zenobia's 
emphatic gestures, were discussing some subject in which 
she, at least, felt a passionate concern. By and by she 
broke away, and vanished beyond my ken. Wester- 
velt approached the window, and leaned his forehead 
against a pane of glass, displaying the sort of smile on 
his handsome features which, when I before met him, 
had let me into the secret of his gold-bordered teeth. 
Every human being, when given over to the devil, is 
sure to have the wizard mark upon him, in one form or 
another. I fancied that this smile, with its peculiar 
revelation, was the devil's signet on the Professor. 

This man, as I had soon reason to know, was endowed 
with a cat-like circumspection ; and though precisely the 
most unspiritual quality in the world, it was almost as 
effective as spiritual insight in making him acquainted 
with whatever it suited him to discover. He now 
proved it, considerably to my discomfiture, by detecting 
and recognizing me, at my post of observation. Per- 
haps I ought to have blushed at being caught in such an 
evident scrutiny of Professor Westervelt and his afTairs. 
Perhaps I did blush. Be that as it might, I retained pres- 
ence of mind enough not to make my position yet more 
irksome, by the poltroonery of drawing back. 

Westervelt looked into the depths of the drawing-room, 
and beckoned. Immediately afterwards, Zenobia ap- 
peared at the window, with color much heightened, and 
eyes which, as my conscience whispered me, were shoot- 



188 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

ing bright arrows, barbed with scorn, across the inter- 
vening space, directed full at my sensibilities as a gen- 
tleman. If the truth must be told, far as her flight-shot 
was, those arrows hit the mark. She signified her 
recognition of me by a gesture with her head and hand, 
comprising at once a salutation and dismissal. The 
next moment, she administered o^g^ of those pitiless 
rebukes which a womanjil ways has^ iMiandj ready for 
\/ an offence (and which she so seldom spares, on due 
occasion), by letting down a white linen curtain between 
the festoons of the damask ones. It fell like the drop- 
curtain of a theatre, in the interval between the acts. 

Priscilla had disappeared from the boudoir. But the 
dove still kept her desolate perch on the peak of the 
attic-window. 



XIX. 

ZENOBIA'S DRAWING-ROOM. 

The remainder of the day, so far as I was concerned, 
was spent in meditating on these recent incidents. I 
contrived, and alternately rejected, innumerable methods 
of accounting for the presence of Zenobia and Priscilla, 
and the connection of Westervelt with both. It must 
be owned, too, that I had a keen, revengeful sense of 
the insult inflicted by Zenobia's scornful recognition, 
and more particularly by her letting down the curtain ; 
as if such were the proper barrier to be interposed 
between a character like hers and a perceptive faculty 
like mine. For, was mine a mere vulgar curiosity ? 
Zenobia should have known me better than to suppose 
it. She should have been able to appreciate that quality 
of the intellect and the heart which impelled me (often 
against my own will, and to the detriment of my own 
comfort) to live in other lives, and to endeavor — by 
generous sympathies, by delicate intuitions, by taking 
note of things too slight for record, and by bringing my 
human spirit into manifold accordance with the compan- 
ions whom God assigned me — to learn the secret which 
was hidden even from themselves. 

Of all possible observers, methought a woman like 
Zenobia and a man like Hollingsworth should have 
selected me. And, now, when the event has long been 
past, I retain the same opinion of my fitness for the 



190 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

office. True, I might have condemned them. Had I 
been judge, as well as witness, my sentence might have 
been stern as that of destiny itself. But, still, no trait 
of original nobility of character, no struggle against 
temptation, — no iron necessity of will, on the one hand, 
nor extenuating circumstance to be derived from passion 
and despair, on the other, — no remorse that might coexist 
with error, even if powerless to prevent it, — no proud 
repentance that should claim retribution as a meed, — 
would go unappreciated. True, again, I might give my 
full assent to the punishment which was sure to follow. 
But it would be given mournfully, and with undimin- 
ished love. And, after all was finished, I would come, 
as if to gather up the white a^hes of those who had per- 
ished at the stake, and to tell the world — the wrong 
being now atoned for — how much had perished there 
which it had never yet known how to praise. 

I sat in my rocking-chair, too far withdrawn from 
the window to expose myself to another rebuke like 
that already inflicted. My eyes still wandered towards 
the opposite house, but without effecting any new dis- 
coveries. Late in the afternoon, the weathercock on the 
church-spire indicated a change of wind ; the sun shone 
dimly out, as if the golden wine of its beams were min- 
gled half-and-half with water. Nevertheless, they kin- 
dled up the whole range of edifices, threw a glow over 
the windows, glistened on the wet roofs, and, slowly 
withdrawing upward, perched upon the chimney-tops ; 
thence they took a higher flight, and lingered an instant 
on the tip of the spire, making it the final point of more 
cheerful light in the whole sombre scene. The next 
moment, it was all gone. The twilight fell into the 



zenobia's drawing-room. 191 

area like a shower of dusky snow ; and before it was 
quite dark, the gong of the hotel summoned me to tea. 

When I returned to my chamber, the glow of an 
astral-lamp was penetrating mistily through the white 
curtain of Zenobia's drawincf-room. The shadow of a 
passing figure was now and then cast upon this medium, 
but with too vague an outline for even my adventurous 
conjectures to read the hieroglyphic that it presented. 

All at once, it occurred to me how very absurd was 
my behavior, in thus tormenting myself with crazy 
hypotheses as to what was going on within that drawing- 
room, when it was at my option to be personally present 
there. My relations with Zenobia, as yet unchanged, — 
as a familiar friend, and associated in the same life-long 
enterprise, — gave me the right, and made it no more 
than kindly courtesy demanded, to call on her. Noth- 
ing, except our habitual independence of conventional 
rules at Blithedale, could have kept me from sooner 
recognizing this duty. At all events, it should now be 
performed. 

In compliance with this sudden impulse, I soon found 
myself actually within the house, the rear of which, for 
two days past, I had been so sedulously watching. A 
servant took my card, and immediately returning, ush- 
ered me up stairs. On the way, I heard a rich, and, as 
it w^re, triumphant burst of music from a piano, in which 
I felt Zenobia's character, although heretofore I had 
known nothing of her skill upon the instrument. Two 
or three canary-birds, excited by this gush of sound, 
sang piercingly, and did their utmost to produce a kin- 
dred melody. A bright illumination streamed through 
the door of the front drawing-room ; and I had barely 



192 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

stept across the threshold before Zenobia came forward 
to meet me, laughing, and with an extended hand. 

*-Ah, Mr. Coverdale," said she, still smiling, but, as I 
thought, with a good deal of scornfal anger underneath, 
" it has gratified me to see the interest which you con- 
tinue to take in my affairs ! I have long recognized 
you as a sort of transcendental Yankee, with all the 
native propensity of your countrymen to investigate 
matters that come within their range, but rendered 
almost poetical, in your case, by the refined methods 
which you adopt for its gratification. After all, it was 
an unjustifiable stroke, on my part, — was it not? — to 
let down the window-curtain ! " 

" I cannot call it a very wise one," returned I, with a 
secret bitterness, which, no doubt, Zenobia appreciated. 
" It is really impossible to hide anything, in this world, 
to say nothing of the next. All that we ought to ask, 
therefore, is, that the witnesses of our conduct, and the 
speculators on our motives, should be capable of taking 
the highest view which the circumstances of the case 
may admit. So much being secured, I, for one, would 
be most happy in feeling myself followed everywhere 
by an indefatigable human sympathy." 

"We must trust for intelligent sympathy to our 
guardian angels, if any there be," said Zenobia. " As 
long as the only spectator of my poor tragedy is a 
young man at the window of his hotel, I must still 
claim the liberty to drop the curtain." 

While this passed, as Zenobia's hand was extended, I 
had applied the very slightest touch of my fingers to 
her own. In spite of an external freedom, her manner 
made me sensible that we stood upon no real terms of 



zenobia's drawing-room. 193 

confidence. The thought came sadly across me, how 
great was the contrast betwixt this interview and our 
first meeting. Then, in the warm light of the country- 
fireside, Zenobia had greeted me cheerily and hopefully, 
with a full, sisterly grasp of the hand, conveying as much 
kindness in it as other women could have evinced by 
the pressure of both arms around my neck, or by yield- ' 
ing a cheek to the brotherly salute. The difference was 
as complete as between her appearance at that time, — so 
simply attired, and with only the one superb flower in her 
hair, — and now, when her beauty was set off by all that 
dress and ornament could do for it. And they did much. 
Not, indeed, that they created or added anything to what 
Nature had lavishly done for Zenobia. But, those 
costly robes which she had on, those flaming jewels on 
her neck, served as lamps to display the personal advan- 
tages which required nothing less than such an illumi- 
nation to be fully seen. Even her characteristic flower, 
though it seemed to be still there, had undergone a cold 
and bright transfiguration ; it was a flower exquisitely 
imitated in jeweller's work, and imparting the last 
touch that transformed Zenobia into a work of art. 

" I scarcely feel," I could not forbear saying, " as if we 
had ever met before. How many years ago it seems 
since we last sat beneath Eliot's pulpit, with Hollings- 
worth extended on the fallen leaves, and Priscilla at his 
feet ! Can it be, Zenobia, that you ever really numbered 
yourself with our little band of earnest, thoughtful, phi- 
lanthropic laborers ? " 

"Those ideas have their time and place," she an- 
swered, coldly. " But I fancy it must be a very circum- j 
scribed mind that can find room for no others." / 

13 



194 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

Her manner bewildered me. Literally, moreover, I 
was dazzled by the brilliancy of the room. A chandelier 
hung down in the centre, glow^ing with I know not how 
many lights ; there were separate lamps, also, on two or 
three tables, and on marble brackets, adding their white 
radiance to that of the chandelier. The furniture was 
exceedingly rich. Fresh from our old farm-house, with 
its homely board and benches in the dining-room, and a 
few wicker chairs in the best parlor, it struck me that 
here was the fulfilment of every fantasy of an imagina- 
tion revelling in various methods of costly self-indul- 
gence and splendid ease. Pictures, marbles, vases, — in 
brief, more shapes of luxury than there could be any 
object in enumerating, except for an auctioneer's adver- 
tisement, — and the whole repeated and doubled by 
the reflection of a great mirror, which showed me Zeno- 
bia's proud figure, likewise, and my own. It cost me, I 
acknowledge, a bitter sense of shame, to perceive in 
myself a positive effort to bear up against the eflfect 
which Zenobia sought to impose on me. I reasoned 
against her, in my secret mind, and strove so to keep 
my footing. In the gorgeousness with which she had 
surrounded herself, — in the redundance of personal orna- 
ment, which the largeness of her physical nature and the 
rich type of her beauty caused to seem so suitable, — I 
makiokntly beheld the true character of the woman, 
passionate, Juxurious, Tacking simplicity, not deeply 
refin ed, incapable j3fpurelmd~perfect taste .~~ 

But, the next instant, she was too powerful for all my 
opposing struggles. I saw how fit it was that she 
should make herself as gorgeous as she pleased, and 
should ^ a thousand things that would have been ridic- 
ulous in the poor, thin7~^eakly characters of other 



zenobia's drawing-room. 195 

women. To this day, however, I hardly know whether 
I merTBeheld Zenobia in her truest attitude, or whether 
that were the truer one in which she had presented her- 
self at Blithedale. #In both, there was something like 
the illusion which a great actress flings around her. 

" Have you given up Blithedale forever? " I inquired. 

" Why should you think so ? " asked she. 

" I cannot tell," answered I ; *' except that it appears 
all like a dream that we were ever there together." 

"It is not so to me," said Zenobia. *' I should think 
it a poor and meagre nature, that is capable of but one 
set of forms, and must convert all the past into a dream 
merely because the present happens to be unlike it. 
Why should we be content with our homely life of a 
few months past, to the exclusion of all other modes ? It 
was good ; but there are other lives as good, or better. 
Not, you will understand, that I condemn those who give 
themselves up to it more entirely than I, for myself, 
should deem it wise to do." 

It irritated me, this self-complacent, condescending, 
qualified approval and criticism of a system to which 
many individuals — perhaps as highly endowed as our 
gorgeous Zenobia — had contributed their all of earthly 
endeavor, and their loftiest aspirations. I determined to 
make proof if there were any spell that would exorcise 
her out of the part which she seemed to be acting. She 
should be compelled to give me a glimpse of something 
true; some nature, some passion, no matter whether 
right or wrong, provided it were real. 

" Your allusion to that class of circumscribed charac- 
ters, who can live only in one mode of life," remarked I, 
coolly, " reminds me of our poor friend Hollingsworth. 
Possibly he was in your thoughts when you spoke thus. 



196 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

Poor fellow ! It is a pity that, by the fault of a narrow 
education, he should have so completely immolated him- 
self to that one idea of his ; especially as the slightest 
modicum of common sense would *teach him its utter 
impracticability. Now that I have returned into the 
world, and can look at his project from a distance, it 
requires quite all my real regard for this respectable and 
well-intentioned man, to prevent me laughing at him, — 
as I find society at large does." 

Zenobia's eyes darted lightning ; her cheeks flushed ; 
the vividness of her expression was like the effect of a 
powerful light flaming up suddenly within her. My 
experiment had fully succeeded. She had shown me 
the true flesh and blood of her heart, by thus involunta- 
rily resenting my slight, pitying, half-kind, half-scornful 
mention of the man who was all in all with her. She 
herself probably felt this ; for it was hardly a moment 
before she tranquillized her uneven breath, and seemed 
as proud and self-possessed as ever. 

" I rather imagine," said she, quietly, " that your 
appreciation falls short of Mr. Hollingsworth's just 
claims. Blind enthusiasm, absorption in one idea, I 
grant, is generally ridiculous, and must be fatal to the 
respectability of an ordinary man; it requires a very 
high and powerful character to make it otherwise. But 
a great man — as, perhaps, you do not know — attains 
his normal condition only through the inspiration of one 
great idea. As a friend of Mr. Hollings worth, and, at 
the same time, a calm observer, I must tell you that he 
seems to me such a man. But you are very pardonable 
for fancying him ridiculous. Doubtless, he is so — to 
you ! There can be no truer test of the noble and 
heroic, in any individual, than the degree in which he 



197 



possesses the faculty of distinguishing heroism from 
absurdity." 

I dared make no retort to Zenobia's concluding apo- 
thegm. In truth, I admired her fidelity. It gave me a 
new sense of Hollingsworth's native power, to discover 
that his influence was no less potent with this beautiful 
woman, here, in the midst of artificial life, than it had 
been at the foot of the gray rock, and among the wild 
birch-trees of the wood-path, when she so passionately 
pressed his hand against her heart. The great, rude, 
shaggy, swarthy man ! And Zenobia loved him ! 

" Did you bring Priscilla with you ? " I resumed. 
" Do you know 1 have sometimes fancied it not quite 
safe, considering the susceptibility of her temperament, 
that she should be so constantly within the sphere of a 
man like Hoilinrrsworth. Snoh tender and delicate 



natureSy-amoag -y^ur sex, jiave often, I_believe, a very 
adequate appreciation of the heiaia-filement in men. 
But then, again, I should suppose them as likely as any 
other women to make a reciprocal impression. Hollings- 
worth could hardly give his affections to^a_;pgj:aQiLcapa:L 
ble of J aking an inde pj^adeni-stand, but-only to one whom 
he mi ght absorb into himself. He has certainly shown 
great tenderness for Priscilla." 

Zenobia had turned aside. But I caught the reflection 
of her face in the mirror, and saw that it was very pale, 
— as pale, in her rich attire, as if a shroud were round her. 

" Priscilla is here," said she, her voice a little lower 
than usual. " Have not you learnt as much from your 
chamber window ? Would you like to see her ? " 

She made a step or two into the back drawing-room, 
and called, 

" Priscilla ! Dear Priscilla ! " 



XX. 

THEY VANISH. 

Priscilla immediately answered the summons, and 
made her appearance through the door of the boudoir. 

I had conceived the idea, which I now recognized as a 
very foolish one, that Zenobia would have taken meas- 
ures to debar me from an interview with this girl, be- 
tween whom and herself there was so utter an opposition 
of their dearest interests, that, on one part or the other, a 
great grief, if not likewise a great wrong, seemed a mat- 
ter of necessity. But, as Priscilla was only a leaf float- 
ing on the dark current of events, without influencing 
them by her own choice or plan, — as she probably 
guessed not whither the stream was bearing her, nor 
perhaps even felt its inevitable movement, — there could 
be no peril of her communicating to me any intelligence 
with regard to Zenobia's purposes. 

On perceiving me, she came forward with great quiet- 
ude of manner ; and when I held out my hand, her own 
moved slightly towards it, as if attracted by a feeble 
degree of magnetism. 

" I am glad to see you, my dear Priscilla," said I, still 
holding her hand ; " but everything that I meet with, 
now-a-days, makes me wonder whether I am awake. 
You, especially, have always seemed like a figure in a 
dream, and now more than ever." 

" O, there is substance in these fingers of mine," she 



THEY VANISH. 199 

answered, giving my hand the faintest possible pressure, 
and then taking away her own. " Why do you call me 
a dream ? Zenobia is much more like one than I ; she 
is so very, very beautiful ! . And, I suppose," added Pris- 
cilla, as if thinking aloud, " everybody sees it, as I do." 

But, for my part, it was Priscilla's beauty, not Zeno- 
bia's, of which I was thinking at that moment. She 
was a person who could be quite obliterated, so far as 
beauty went, by anything unsuitable in her attire ; her 
charm was not positive and material enough to bear up 
against a mistaken choice of color, for instance, or fash- 
ion. It was safest, in her case, to attempt no art of 
dress ; for it demanded the most perfect taste, or else 
the happiest accident in the world, to give her precisely 
the adornment which she needed. She was now dressed 
in pure white, set off with some kind of a gauzy fabric, 
\\1irch"^— 'as I bring up her figure in my memory, with a 
faint gleam on her shadowy liSTTai^d^ireriferk eyes bent 
shyly on mine, through all the vanished years — seems 
to be floating about her like a mist. Lwonderedjwhat 
Zenobia meant by evolving so much loveliness out of 
this poor'grrT] TTwas what few women could afford to 
do ; for, as I looked from one to the other, the sheen and 
splendor of Zenobia's presence took nothing from Pris- 
cilla's softer spell, if it might not rather be thought to 
add to it. 

" What do you think of her?" asked Zenobia. 

I could not understand the look of melancholy kind- 
ness with which Zenobia regarded her. She advanced a 
step, and beckoning Priscilla near her, kissed her cheek ; 
then, with a slight gesture of repulse, she moved to the 
other side of the room. I followed. 



200 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

" She is a wonderful creature," 1 said. " Ever since 
she came among us, I have been dimly sensible of just 
this charm which you have brought out. But it was 
never absolutely visible till now. She is as lovely as a 
flower ! " 

" Well, say so, if you like," answered Zenobia. " You 
are a poet, — at least, as poets go, now-a-days, — and 
must be allowed to make an opera-glass of your imagin- 
ation, when you look at women. I wonder, in such Ar- 
cadian freedom of falling in love as we have lately 
enjoyed, it never occurred to you to fall in love with 
Priscilla. In society, indeed, a genuine American never 
dreams of stepping across the inappreciable air-line which 
separates one class from another. But what was rank 
to the colonists of Blithedale ? " 

" There were other reasons," I replied, " why I should 
have demonstrated myself an ass, had I fallen in love 
with Priscilla. By the by, has Hollingsworth ever seen 
her in this dress ? " 

" Why do you bring up his name at every turn ? " 
asked Zenobia, in an under tone, and with a malign look 
which wandered from my face to Priscilla's. " You 
know not what you do ! It is dangerous, sir, believe 
me, to tamper thus with earnest human passions, out of 
your own mere idleness, and for your sport. I will , 
endure it no longer ! Take care that it does not happen / 
again ! I warn you I " / 

" You partly wrong me, if not wholly," I responded. 
*' It is an uncertain sense of some duty to perform, that 
brings my thoughts, and therefore my words, continually 
to that one point." 

" 0, this stale excuse of duty I " said Zenobia, in a whis- 



THEY VANISH. 201 

per so full of scorn that it penetrated me like the hiss of 
a serpent. " I have often heard it before, from those who 
sought to interfere with me, and I know precisely what 
it signifies. Bigotry ; self-conceit ; an insolent curiosity; 
a meddlesome temper; a cold-blooded criticism, founded 
on a shallow interpretation of half-perceptions ; a mon- 
strous scepticism in regard to any conscience or any wis- 
dom, except one's own ; a most irreverent propensity to 
thrust Providence aside, and substitute one's self in its 
awful place; — out of these, and other motives as miser- 
able as these, comes your idea of duty ! But, beware, 
sir ! With all your fancied acuteness, you step blind- 
fold into these affairs. For any mischief that may 
follow your interference, I hold you responsible ! " 

It was evident that, with but a little further provoca- 
tion, the lioness would turn to bay ; if, indeed, such were 
not her attitude already. I bowed, and, not very well 
knowing what else to do, was about to withdraw. But, 
glancing again towards Priscilla, who had retreated into 
a corner, there fell upon my heart an intolerable burthen 
of despondency, the purport of which I could not tell, 
but only felt it to bear reference to her. I approached 
her, and held out my hand; a gesture, however, to 
which she made no response. It was always one of her 
peculiarities that she seemed to shrink from even the 
most friendly touch, unless it were Zenobia's or HoUings- 
worth's. Zenobia, all this while, stood watching us, but 
with a careless expression, as if it mattered very little 
what might pass. 

*' Priscilla," I inquired, lowering my voice, " when do 
you go back to Blithedale ? " 

" Whenever they _please to take me," said she. 



202 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

*' Did you come away of your own free will ? " I 
asked. 

" I am blown about like a leaf," she replied. " I 
never have any free will." 

" Does HoUings worth know that you are here ? " 
said I. 

" He bade me come," answered Priscilla. 

She looked at me, I thought, with an air of surprise, 
as if the idea were incomprehensible that she should 
have taken this step without his agency. 

" What a gripe this man has laid upon her whole 
being!" muttered I, between my teeth. "Well, as 
Zenobia so kindly intimates, I have no more business 
here. I wash my hands of it all. On HoUingsworth's 
head be the consequences ! Priscilla," I added, aloud, 
" I know not that ever we may meet again. Farewell ! " 

As I spoke the word, a carriage had rumbled along the 
street, and stopt before the house. The door-bell rang, 
and steps were immediately afterwards heard on the 
staircase. Zenobia had thrown a shawl over her dress. 

" Mr. Coverdale," said she, with cool courtesy, " you 
will perhaps excuse us. We have an engagement, and 
are going out." 

" Whither ? " I demanded. 

" Is not that a little more than you are entitled to 
inquire ? " said she, with a smile. " At all events, it 
does not suit me to tell you." 

The door of the drawing-room opened, and Wester- 
velt appeared. I observed that he was elaborately 
dressed, as if for some grand entertainment. My dislike 
for this man was infinite. At that moment it amounted 
to nothing less than a creeping of the flesh, as when, 
feeling about in a dark place, one touches something 



THEY VANISH. 203 

cold and slimy, and questions what the secret hateful- 
ness may be. And still I could not but acknowledge 
that, for personal beauty, for polish of manner, for all 
that externally befits a gentleman, there was hardly 
another like him. After bowing to Zenobia, and gra- 
ciously saluting Priscilla in her corner, he recognized 
me by a slight but courteous inclination. 

" Come, Priscilla," said Zenobia ; " it is time. Mr. 
Coverdale, good-evening." 

As Priscilla moved slowly forward, I met her in the 
middle of the drawing-room. 

" Priscilla," said I, in the hearing of them all, " do 
you know whither you are going ? " 

" I do not know," she answered. 

" Is it wise to go, and is it your choice to go ? ** I 
asked. " If not, I am your friend, and Hollingsworth's 
friend. Tell me so, at once." 

" Possibly," observed Westervelt, smiling, " Priscilla 
sees in me an older friend than either Mr. Coverdale or 
Mr. Hollingsworth. I shall willingly leave the matter 
at her option." 

While thus speaking, he made a gesture of kindly 
invitation, and Priscilla passed me, with the gliding 
movement of a sprite, and took his offered arm. He 
offered the other to Zenobia ; but she turned her proud 
and beautiful face upon him, with a look which — judg- 
ing from what I caught of it in profile — would undoubt- 
edly have smitten the man dead, had he possessed any 
heart, or had this glance attained to it. It seemed to 
rebound, however, from his courteous visage, like an 
arrow from polished steel. They all three descended 
the stairs ; and when I likewise reached the street-door, 
the carriage was already rolling away. 



XXI. 

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 

Thus excluded from everybody's confidence, and at- 
taining no further, by my most earnest study, than to 
an uncertain sense of something hidden from me, it 
would appear reasonable that I should have flung off all 
these alien perplexities. Obviously, my best course was 
to betake myself to new scenes. Here I was only an 
intruder. Elsewhere there might be circumstances in 
which I could establish a personal interest, and people 
who would respond, with a portion of their sympathies, 
for so much as I should bestow of mine. 

Nevertheless, there occurred to me one other thing to 
be done. Remembering old Moodie, and his relation- 
ship with Priscilla, I determined to seek an interview, 
for the purpose of ascertaining whether the knot of 
affairs was as inextricable on that side as I found it on 
all others. Being tolerably well acquainted with the 
old man's haunts, I went, the next day, to the saloon of 
a certain establishment about which he often lurked. It 
was a reputable place enough, affording good enter- 
tainment in the way of meat, drink, and fumigation; 
and there, in my young and idle days and nights, when 
I was neither nice nor wise, I had often amused myself 
with watching the staid humors and sober jollities of the 
thirsty souls around me. 

At my first entrance, old Moodie was not there. The 



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 205 

more patiently to await him, I lighted a cigar, and estab- 
lishing myself in a corner, took a quiet, and, by sympathy, 
a boozy kind of pleasure in the customary life that was 
going forward. The saloon was fitted up with a good 
deal of taste. There were pictures on the walls, and 
among them an oil-painting of a beef-steak, with such an 
admirable show of juicy tenderness, that the beholder 
sighed to think it merely visionary, and incapable of 
ever being put upon a gridiron. Another work of high 
art was the life-like representation of a noble sirloin ; 
another, the hind-quarters of a deer, retaining the hoofs 
and tawny fur ; another, the head and shoulders of a 
salmon ; and, still more exquisitely finished, a brace of 
canvas-back ducks, in which the mottled feathers were 
depicted with the accuracy of a daguerreotype. Some 
very hungry painter, I suppose, had wrought these sub- 
jects of still life, heightening his imagination with his 
appetite, and earning, it is to be hoped, the privilege of 
a daily dinner off whichever of his pictorial viands he 
liked best. Then, there was a fine old cheese, in which 
you could almost discern the mites ; and some sardines, 
on a small plate, very richly done, and looking as if 
oozy with the oil in which they had been smothered. 
All these things were so perfectly imitated, that you 
seemed to have the genuine article before you, and yet 
with an indescribable ideal charm; it took away the 
grossness from what was fleshiest and fattest, and thus 
helped the life of man, even in its earthliest relations, to 
appear rich and noble, as well as warm, cheerful, and 
substantial. There were pictures, too, of gallant revel- 
lers, — those of the old timio, — Flemish, apparently, — 
with doublets and slashed sleeves, — drinking their wine 



206 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

out of fantastic long-stemmed glasses; quaffing joy- 
ously, quaffing forever, with inaudible laughter and 
song, while the Champagne bubbled immortally against 
the'r mustaches, or the purple tide of Burgundy ran 
inexhaustibly down their throats. 

But, in an obscure corner of the saloon, there was a 
little picture — excellently done, moreover — of a rag- 
ged, bloated, New England toper, stretched out on a 
bench, in the heavy, apoplectic sleep of drunkenness. 
The death-in-life was too well portrayed. You smelt 
the fumy liquor that had brought on this syncope. 
Your only comfort lay in the forced reflection, that, real 
as he looked, the poor caitiff was but imaginary, — a bit 
of painted canvas, whom no delirium tremens, nor so 
much as a retributive headache, awaited, on the mor- 
row. • 

By this time, it being past eleven o'clock, the two 
barkeepers of the saloon were in pretty constant activity. 
One of these young men had a rare faculty in the con- 
coction of gin-cocktails. It was a spectacle to behold, 
how, with a tumbler in each hand, he tossed the con- 
tents from one to the other. Never conveying it awry, 
nor spilling the least drop, he compelled the frothy 
liquor, as it seemed to me, to spout forth from one glass 
and descend into the other, in a great parabolic curve, as 
well defined and calculable as a planet's orbit. He had 
a good forehead, with a particularly large development 
just above the eyebrows ; fine intellectual gifts, no doubt, 
which he had educated to this profitable end; being 
famous for nothing but gin-cocktails, and commanding a 
fair salary by his one accomplishment. These cocktails, 
and other artificial combinations of liquor (of which 



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 207 

there were at least a score, though mostly, I suspect, 
fantastic in their differences), were much in favor with 
the younger class of customers, who, at furthest, had 
only reached the second stage of potatory life. The 
stanch old soakers, on the other hand, — men who, if 
put on tap, would have yielded a red alcoholic liquor by 
way of blood, — usually confined themselves to plain 
brandy-and-water, gin, or West India rum ; and, often- 
times, they prefaced their dram with some medicinal 
remark as to the wholesomeness and stomachic qualities 
of that particular drink. Two or three appeared to have 
bottles of their own behind the counter ; and, winking 
one red eye to the barkeeper, he forthwith produced 
these choicest and peculiar cordials, which it was a mat- 
ter of great interest and favor, among their acquaint- 
ances, to obtain a sip of. 

Agreeably to the Yankee habit, under whatever cir- 
cumstances, the deportment of all these good fellows, old 
or young, was decorous and thoroughly correct. They 
grew only the more sober in their cups ; there was no 
confused babble nor boisterous laughter. They sucked 
in the joyous fire of the decanters, and kept it smoulder- 
ing in their inmost recesses, with a bliss known only to 
the heart which it warmed and comforted. Their eyes 
twinkled a little, to be sure ; they hemmed vigorously 
after each glass, and laid a hand upon the pit of the 
stomach, as if the pleasant titillation there was what 
constituted the tangible part of their enjoyment. In that 
spot, unquestionably, and not in the brain, was the acme 
of the whole aflfair. But the true purpose of their drink- 
ing — and one that will induce men to drink, or do some- 
thing equivalent, as long as this weary world shall 



208 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

endure — was the renewed youth and' vigor, the brisk, 
cheerful sense of things present and to come, with 
which, for about a quarter of an hour, the dram per- 
meated their systems. And when such quarters of an 
hour can be obtained in some mode less baneful to the 
great sum of a man's life, — but, nevertheless, with a 
little spice of impropriety, to give it a wild flavor, — we 
temperance people may ring out our bells for victory ! 

The prettiest object in the saloon was a tiny fountain, 
which threw up its feathery jet through the counter, and 
sparkled down again into an oval basin, or lakelet, con- 
taining several gold-fishes. There was a bed of bright 
sand at the bottom, strewn with coral and rock-work ; 
and the fishes went gleaming about, now turning up the 
sheen of a golden side, and now vanishing into the 
shadows of the water, like the fanciful thoughts that 
coquet with a poet in his dream. Never before, I 
imagine, did a company of water-drinkers remain so 
entirely uncontaminated by the bad example around 
them; nor could I help wondering that it had not 
occurred to any freakish inebriate to empty a glass of 
liquor into their lakelet. What a delightful idea ! Who 
would not be a fish, if he could inhale jollity with the 
essential element of his existence ! 

I had began to despair of meeting old Moodie, when, all 
at once, I recognized his hand and arm protruding from 
behind a screen that was set up for the accommodation 
of bashful topers. As a matter of course, he had one of 
Priscilla's little purses, and was quietly insinuating it 
under the notice of a person who stood near. This was 
always old Moodie's way. You hardly ever saw him 
advancing towards you, but became aware of his proxim- 



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 209 

ity without being able to guess how he had come thither. 
He glided about like a spirit, assuming visibility close to 
your elbow, offering his petty trifles of merchandise, 
remaining long enough for you to purchase, if so dis- 
posed, and then taking himself off, between two breaths, 
while you happened to be thinking of something else. 

By a sort of sympathetic impulse that often controlled 
me in those more impressible days of my life, I was 
induced to approach this old man in a mode as undemon- 
strative as his own. Thus, when, according to his cus- 
tom, he was probably just about to vanish, he found me 
at his elbow. 

" Ah !" said he, with more emphasis than was usual 
with him. " It is Mr. Coverdale ! " 

" Yes, Mr. Moodie, your old acquaintance," answered 
I. " It is some time now since we ate our luncheon 
together at Blithedale, and a good deal longer since our 
little talk together at the street-corner." 

" That was a good while ago," said the old man. 

And he seemed inclined to say not a word more. His 
existence looked so colorless and torpid, — so very 
faintly shadowed on the canvas of reality, — that I was 
half afraid lest he should altogether disappear, even 
while my eyes were fixed full upon his figure. He was 
certainly the wretchedest old ghost in the world, with 
his crazy hat, the dingy handkerchief about his throat, 
his suit of threadbare gray, and especially that patch 
over his right eye, behind which he always seemed to be 
hiding himself. There was one method, however, of 
bringing him out into somewhat stronger relief. A glass 
of brandy would effect it. Perhaps the gentler influence 
of a bottle of claret might do the same. Nor could I 
14 



210 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

think it a matter for the recording angel to write down 
against me, if — with my painful consciousness of the 
frost in this old man's blood, and the positive ice that 
had congealed about his heart — I should thaw him out, 
were it only for an hour, with the summer warmth of a 
little wine. What else could possibly be done for him ? 
How else could he be imbued with energy enough to 
hope for a happier state hereafter? How else be 
inspired to say his prayers ? For there are states of our 
spiritual system when the throb of the soul's life is too 
faint and weak to render us capable of religious aspira- 
tion. 

" Mr. Moodie," said I, " shall we lunch together ? 
And would you like to drink a glass of wine ? " 

His one eye gleamed. He bowed ; and it impressed 
me that he grew to be more of a man at once, either in 
anticipation of the wine, or as a grateful response to my 
good fellowship in offering it. 

" With pleasure," he replied. 

The barkeeper, at my request, showed us into a pri- 
vate room, and soon afterwards set some fried oysters 
and a bottle of claret on the table ; and I saw the old 
man glance curiously at the label of the bottle, as if to 
learn the brand. 

" It should be good wine," I remarked, " if it have any 
right to its label." 

»' You cannot suppose, sir," said Moodie, with a sigh, 
*' that a poor old fellow like me knows any difference in 
wines." 

And yet, in his way of handling the glass, in his 
preliminary snuff at the aroma, in his first cautious sip 
of the wine, and the gustatory skill with which he gave 



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 211 

his palate the full advantage of it, it was impossible not 
to recognize the connoisseur. 

" I fancy, Mr. Moodie," said I, " you are a much bet- 
ter judge of wines than I have yet learned to be. Tell 
me fairly, — did you never drink it where the grape 
grows ? " 

" How should that have been, Mr. Coverdale ? " 
answered old Moodie, shyly ; but then he took courage, 
as it were, and uttered a feeble little laugh. " The flavor 
of this wine," added he, "and its perfume, still more 
than its taste, makes me remember that I was once a 
young man." 

"I wish, Mr. Moodie," suggested I, — not that I 
greatly cared about it, however, but was only anxious to 
draw him into some talk about Priscilla and Zenobia, — 
" I wish, while we sit over our wine, you would favor 
me with a few of those youthful reminiscences." 

*> Ah," said he, shaking his head, " they might inter- 
est you more than you suppose. But I had better be 
silent, Mr. Coverdale. If this good wine, — though 
claret, I suppose, is not apt to play such a trick, — but if 
it should make my tongue run too freely, I could never 
look you in the face again." 

" You never did look me in the face, Mr. Moodie," I 
replied, " until this very moment." 

" Ah ! " sighed old Moodie. 

It was wonderful, however, what an effect the mild 
grape-juice wrought upon him. It was not in the wine, but 
in the associations which it seemed to bring up. Instead 
of the mean, slouching, furtive, painfully depressed air of 
an old city vagabond, more like a gray kennel-rat than 
any other living thing, he began to take the aspect of a 



212 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

decayed gentleman. Even his garments — especially 
after I had myself quaffed a glass or two — looked less 
shabby than when we first sat down. There was, by 
and by, a certain exuberance and elaborateness of ges- 
ture and manner, oddly in contrast with all that I had 
hitherto seen of him. Anon, with hardly any impulse 
from me, old Moodie began to talk. His communica- 
tions referred exclusively to a long past and more fortun- 
ate period of his life, with only a few unavoidable allu- 
sions to the circumstances that had reduced him to his 
present state. But, having once got the clue, my subse- 
quent researches acquainted me with the main facts of 
the following narrative ; although, in writing it out, my 
pen has perhaps allowed itself a trifle of romantic and 
legendary license, worthier of a small poet than of a 
grave biographer. 



XXII. 

FAUNTLEROY. 

FiVE-AND-TWENTY years ago, at the epoch of this story, 
there dwelt in one of the Middle States a man whom 
we shall call Fauntleroy ; a man of wealth, and magnif- 
icent tastes, and prodigal expenditure. His home might 
almost be styled a palace ; his habits, in the ordinary 
sense, princely. His whole being seemed to have crys- 
tallized itself into an external splendor, wherewith he 
glittered in the eyes of the world, and had no other life 
than upon this gaudy surface. He had married a lovely 
woman, whose nature was deeper than his own. But 
his affection for her, though it showed largely, was 
superficial, like all his other manifestations and devel- 
opments : he did not so truly keep this noble creature in 
his heart, as wear her beauty for the most brilliant orna- 
ment of his outward state. And there was born to him 
a child, a beautiful daughter, whom he took from the 
beneficent hand of God with no just sense of her immor- 
tal value, but as a man already rich in gems would 
receive another jewel. If he loved her, it was because 
she shone. 

After Fauntleroy had thus spent a few empty years, 
corruscating continually an unnatural light, the source 
of it — which was merely his gold — began to grow 
more shallow, and finally became exhausted. He saw 
himself in imminent peril of losing all that had hereto- 



214 THE blithe;,pale romance. 

fore distinguished him ; and, conscious of no innate 
worth to fall back upon, he recoiled from this calamity, 
with the instinct of a soul shrinking from annihilation. 
To avoid it — wretched man ! — or, rather to defer it, if 
but for a month, a day, or only to procure himself the 
life of a few breaths more amid the false glitter which 
was now less his own than ever, — he made himself 
guilty of a crime. It was just the sort of crime, growing 
out of its artificial state, which society (unless it should 
change its entire constitution for this man's unworthy 
sake) neither could nor ought to pardon. More safely 
might it pardon murder. Fauntleroy's guilt was dis- 
covered. He fled ; his wife perished, by the necessity 
of her innate nobleness, in its alliance with a being so 
ignoble ; and betwixt her mother's death and her father's 
ignominy, his daughter was left worse than orphaned. 

There was no pursuit after Fauntleroy. His family 
connections, who had great wealth, made such arrange- 
ments with those whom he had attempted to wrong as 
secured him from the retribution that would have over- 
taken an unfriended criminal. The wreck of his estate 
was divided among his creditors. His name, in a very 
brief space, was forgotten by the multitude who had 
passed it so diligently from mouth to mouth. Seldom, 
indeed, was it recalled, even by his closest former inti- 
mates. Nor could it have been otherwise. The man 
had laid no real touch on any mortal's heart. Being a 
mere image, an optical delusion, created by the sunshine 
of prosperity, it was his law to vanish into the shadow 
of the first intervening cloud. He seemed to leave no 
vacancy ; a phenomenon which, like many others that 



FAUNTLEROY. 215 

attended his brief career, went far to prove the illusive- 
ness of his existence. 

Not, however, that the physical substance of Fauntle- 
roy had literally melted into vapor. He had fled north- 
ward to the New England metropolis, and had taken 
up his abode, under another name, in a squalid street or 
court of the older portion of the city. There he dwelt 
among poverty-stricken wretches, sinners, and forlorn 
good people, Irish, and whomsoever else were neediest. 
Many families were clustered in each house together, 
above stairs and below, in the little peaked garrets, and 
even in the dusky cellars. The house where Fauntle- 
roy paid weekly rent for a chamber and a closet had 
been a stately habitation in its day. An old colonial 
governor had built it, and lived there, long ago, and held 
his levees in a great room where now slept twenty Irish 
bedfellows; and died in Fauntleroy's chamber, which his 
embroidered and white-wigged ghost still haunted. Tat- 
tered hangings, a marble hearth, traversed with many 
cracks and fissures, a richly-carved oaken mantel-piece, 
partly hacked away for kindling-stuff, a stuccoed ceiling, 
defaced with great, unsightly patches of the naked 
laths, — such was the chamber's aspect, as if, with its 
splinters and rags of dirty splendor, it were a kind of 
practical gibe at this poor, ruined man of show. 

At first, and at irregular intervals, his relatives 
allowed Fauntleroy a little pittance to sustain life ; not 
from any love, perhaps, but lest poverty should compel 
him, by new offences, to add more shame to that with 
which he had already stained them. But he showed no 
tendency to further guilt. His character appeared to 
have been radically changed (as, indeed, from its shallow- 



216 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

ness, it well might) by his miserable fate ; or, it may be, 
the traits now seen in him were portions of the same 
character, presenting itself in another phase. Instead 
of any longer seeking to live in the sight of the world, 
his impulse was to shrink into the nearest obscurity, and 
to be unseen of men, were it possible, even while stand- 
ing before their eyes. He had no pride ; it was all trod- 
den in the dust. No ostentation ; for how could it sur- 
vive, when there was nothing left of Fauntleroy, save 
penury and shame ! His very gait demonstrated that 
he would gladly have faded out of view, and have crept 
about invisibly, for the sake of sheltering himself from 
the irksomeness of a human glance. Hardly, it was 
averred, within the memory of those who knew him 
now, had he the hardihood to show his full front to the 
world. He skulked in corners, and crept about in a 
sort of noon-day twilight, making himself gray and 
misty, at all hours, with his morbid intolerance of sun- 
shine. 

In his torpid despair, however, he had done an act 
which that condition of the spirit seems to prompt 
almost as often as prosperity and hope. Fauntleroy 
was again married. He had taken to wife a forlorn, 
meek-spirited, feeble young woman, a seamstress, whom 
he found dwelling with her mother in a contiguous 
chamber of the old gubernatorial residence. This poor 
phantom — as the beautiful and noble companion of his 
former life had done — brought him a daughter. And 
sometimes, as from one dream into another, Fauntleroy 
looked forth out of his present grinriy environment into 
that past magnificence, and wondered whether the 
grandee of yesterday or the pauper of to-day were real. 



FAUNTLEROY. 217 

But, in my mind, the one and the other were alike 
impalpable. In truth, it was Fauntleroy's fatality to 
behold whatever he touched dissolve. After a few 
years, his second wife (dim shadow that she had always 
been) faded finally out of the world, and left Fauntleroy 
to deal as he might with their pale and nervous child. 
And, by this time, among his distant relatives — with 
whom he had grown a weary thought, linked with 
contagious infamy, and which they were only too 
willing to get rid of — he was himself supposed to be no 
more. 

The younger child, like his elder one, might be con- 
sidered as the true offspring of both parents, and as the 
reflection of their state. She was a tremulous little 
creature, shrinking involuntarily from all mankind, but 
in timidity, and no sour repugnance. There was a 
lack of human substance in her ; it seemed as if, were 
she to stand up in a sunbeam, it would pass right 
through her figure, and trace out the cracked and 
dusty window-panes upon the naked floor. But, never- 
theless, the poor child had a heart; and from her 
mother's gentle character she had inherited a profound 
and still capacity of affection. And so her life was one 
of love. She bestow^ed it partly on her father, but in 
greater part on an idea. 

For Fauntleroy, as they sat by their cheerless fire- 
side, — which was no fireside, in truth, but only a rusty 
stove, — had often talked to the little girl about his 
former wealth, the noble loveliness of his first wife, and 
the beautiful child whom she had given him. Instead 
of the fairy tales which other parents tell, he told Pris- 
cilla this. And, out of the loneliness of her sad little 



v^ 



218 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

existence, Priscilla's love grew, and tended upward, and 
twined itself perseveringly around this unseen sister; as 
a grape-vine might strive to clamber out of a gloomy 
hollow among the rocks, and embrace a young tree 
standing in the sunny warmth above. It was almost 
like worship, both in its earnestness and its humility ; 
nor was it the less humble, — though the more earnest, — 
because Priscilla could claim human kindred with the 
being whom she so devoutly loved. As with worship, too, 
it gave her soul the refreshment of a purer atmosphere. 
Save for this singular, this melancholy, and yet beauti- 
ful affection, the child could hardly have lived; or, had 
she lived, with a heart shrunken for lack of any senti- 
ment to fill it, she must have yielded to the barren 
miseries of her position, and have grown to womanhood 
characterless and worthless. But now, amid all the 
sombre coarseness of her father's outw^ard life, and of her 
own, Priscilla had a higher and imaginative life within. 
Some faint gleam thereof was often visible upon her 
face. It was as if, in her spiritual visits to her brilliant 
sister, a portion of the latter's brightness had permeated 
our dim Priscilla, and still lingered, shedding a faint 
illumination through the cheerless chamber, after she 
came back. 

As the child grew up, so pallid and so slender, and 
with much unaccountable nervousness, and all the 
weaknesses of neglected infancy still haunting her, the 
gross and simple neighbors whispered strange things 
about Priscilla. The big, red, Irish matrons, whose 
innumerable progeny swarmed out of the adjacent doors, 
used to mock at the pale, western child. They fancied 
— or, at least, affirmed it, between jest and earnest — 



FAUNTLEROY. 219 

that she was not so solid flesh and blood as other chil- 
dren, but mixed largely with a thinner element. They 
called her ghost-child, and said that she could indeed 
vanish when she pleased, but could never, in her 
densest moments, make herself quite visible. The sun, 
at mid-day, would shine through her; in the first gray 
of the twilight, she lost all the distinctness of her out- 
line ; and, if you followed the dim thing into a dark 
corner, behold! she was not there. And it was true 
that Priscilla had strange ways ; strange ways, and 
stranger words, when she uttered any words at all. 
Never stirring out of the old governor's dusky house, she 
sometimes talked of distant places and splendid rooms, 
as if she had just left them. Hidden things were visi- 
ble to her (at least, so the people inferred from obscure 
hints escaping unawares out of her mouth), and silence 
was audible. And in all the world there was nothing 
so difficult to be endured, by those who had any dark 
secret to conceal, as the glance of Priscilla's timid and 
melancholy eyes. 

Her peculiarities were the theme of continual gossip 
among the other inhabitants of the gubernatorial mansion. 
The rumor spread thence into a wider circle. Those 
who knew old Moodie, as he was now called, used often 
to jeer him, at the very street corners, about his daugh- 
ter's gift of second sight and prophecy. It was a period 
when science (though mostly through its empirical pro- 
fessors) was bringing forward, anew, a hoard of facts 
and imperfect theories, that had partially won credence 
in elder times, but which modern scepticism had swept 
away as rubbish. These things were now tossed up 
again, out of the surging ocean of human thought and 



220 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

experience. The story of Priscilla's preternatural man- 
ifestations, therefore, attracted a kind of notice of which 
it would have been deemed wholly unworthy a few 
years earlier. One day, a gentleman ascended the 
creaking staircase, and inquired which was old Moodie's 
chamber-door. And, several times, he came again. He 
was a marvellously handsome man, — still youthful, too, 
and fashionably dressed. Except that Priscilla, in those 
days, had no beauty, and, in the languor of her exist- 
ence, had not yet blossomed into womanhood, there 
would have been rich food for scandal in these visits ; 
for the girl was unquestionably their sole object, although 
her father was supposed always to be present. But, it 
must likewise be added, there was something about 
Priscilla that calumny could not meddle with ; and thus 
far was she privileged, either by the preponderance of 
what was spiritual, or the thin and w^atery blood that 
left her cheek so pallid. 

Yet, if the busy tongues of the neighborhood spared 
Priscilla in one way, they made themselves amends by 
renewed and wilder babble on another score. They 
averred that the strange gentleman was a wizard, and 
that he had taken advantage of Priscilla's lack of 
earthly substance to subject her to himself, as his famil- 
iar spirit, through w^hose medium he gained cognizance 
of whatever happened, in regions near or remote. The 
boundaries of his power were defined by the verge of the 
pit of Tartarus on the one hand, and the third sphere of 
the celestial world on the other. Again, they declared 
their suspicion that the wizard, with all his show of 
manly beauty, was really an aged and wizened figure, or 
else that his semblance of a human body was only a 



FAUNTLEROY. 221 

necromantic, or perhaps a mechanical contrivance, in 
which a demon walked about. In proof of it, however, 
they could merely instance a gold band around his 
upper teeth, which had once been visible to several old 
women, when he smiled at them from the top of the gov- 
ernor's staircase. Of course, this was all absurdity, or 
mostly so. But, after every possible deduction, there 
remained certain very mysterious points about the 
stranger's character, as well as the connection that he 
established with Priscilla. Its nature at that period was 
even less understood than now, when miracles of this 
kind have grown so absolutely stale, that I would gladly, 
if the truth allowed, dismiss the whole matter from my 
narrative. 

We must now glance backward, in quest of the beau- 
tiful daughter of Fauntleroy's prosperity. What had 
become of her ? Fauntleroy's only brother, a bachelor, 
and with no other relative so near, had adopted the for- 
saken child. She grew up in affluence, with native 
graces clustering luxuriantly about her. In her triumph- 
ant progress towards womanhood, she was adorned with 
every variety of feminine accomplishment. But she 
lacked a mother's care. With no adequate control, on 
any hand (for a man, however stern, however wise, can 
never sway and guide a female child), her character was 
left to shape itself. There was good in it, and evil. Pas- 
sionate, self-willed and imperious, she had a warm and 
generous nature ; showing the richness of the soil, how- 
ever, chiefly by the weeds that flourished in it, and choked 
up the herbs of grace. In her girlhood her uncle died. 
As Fauntleroy was supposed to be likewise dead, and no 
other heir was known to exist, his wealth devolved on 



222 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

her, although, dying suddenly, the uncle left no will. 
After his death, there were obscure passages in Zenobia's 
history. There were whispers of an attachment, and 
even a secret marriage, with a fascinating and accom- 
plished but unprincipled young man. The incidents and 
appearances, however, which led to this surmise, soon 
passed away, and were forgotten. 

Nor was her reputation seriously affected by the report. 
In fact, so great was her native power and influence, and 
such seemed the careless purity of her nature, that what- 
ever Zenobia did was generally acknowledged as right 
for her to do. The world never criticized her so harshly 
as it does most women who transcend its rules. It 
almost yielded its assent, when it beheld her stepping out 
of the common path, and asserting the more extensive 
privileges of her sex, both theoretically and by her prac- 
tice. The sphere of ordinary womanhood was felt to 
be narrower than her development required. 

A portion of Zenobia's more recent life is told in the 
foregoing pages. Partly in earnest — and, I imagine, as 
was her disposition, half in a proud jest, or in a kind of 
recklessness that had grown upon her, out of some 
hidden grief, — she had given her countenance, and 
promised liberal pecuniary aid, to our experiment of a 
better social state. And Priscilla followed her to Blithe- 
dale. The sole bliss of her life had been a dream of 
this beautiful sister, who had never so much as known 
of her existence. By this time, too, the poor girl was 
enthralled in an intolerable bondage, from which she 
must either free herself or perish. She deemed herself 
safest near Zenobia, into whose large heart she hoped to 
nestle. 



FAUNTLEROY. 223 

One evening, months after Priscilla's departure, when 
Moodie (or shall we call him Fauntleroy?) was sitting 
alone in the state-chamber of the old governor, there 
came footsteps up the staircase. There was a pause on 
the landing-place. A lady's musical yet haughty ac- 
cents were heard making an inquiry from some denizen 
of the house, who had thrust a head out of a contiguous 
chamber. There was then a knock at Hoodie's door. 

" Come in I " said he. 

And Zenobia entered. The details of the interview 
that followed being unknown to me, — while, notwith- 
standing, it would be a pity quite to lose the picturesque- 
ness of the situation, — I shall attempt to sketch it, 
mainly from fancy, although with some general grounds 
of surmise in regard to the old man's feelings. 

She gazed wonderingly at the dismal chamber. Dis- 
mal to her, who beheld it only for an instant ; and how 
much more so to him, into whose brain each bare spot 
on the ceiling, every tatter of the paper-hangings, and 
all the splintered carvings of the mantel-piece, seen 
wearily through long years, had worn their several 
prints ! Inexpressibly miserable is this familiarity with 
objects that have been from the first disgustful. 

" I have received a strange message," said Zenobia, 
after a moment's silence, " requesting, or rather enjoining 
it upon me, to come hither. Rather from curiosity than 
any other motive, — and because, though a woman, I 
have not all the timidity of one, — I have complied. 
Can it be you, sir, who thus summoned me ? " 

"It was," answered Moodie. 

"And what was your purpose?" she continued. 
"You require charity, perhaps? In that case, the mes- 



224 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

sage might have been more fitly worded. But you are 
old and poor, and age and poverty should be allowed 
their privileges. Tell me, therefore, to what extent you 
need my aid." 

" Put up your purse," said the supposed mendicant, 
with an inexplicable smile. " Keep it, — keep all your 
wealth, — until I demand it all, or none ! My message 
had no such end in view. You are beautiful, they tell 
me ; and I desired to look at you." 

He took the one lamp that showed the discomfort and 
sordid ness of his abode, and approaching Zenobia, held 
it up, so as to gain the more perfect view of her, from 
top to toe. So obscure was the chamber, that you 
could see the reflection of her diamonds thrown upon 
the dingy wall, an d flickering with the rise and_jall of 
Zenobia's breath. Tt""wus The splendor of those jewels 
on her neck, like lamps that burn before some fair tem- 
ple, and the jewelled flower in her hair, more than the 
murky, yellow light, that helped him to see her beauty. 
But he beheld it, and grew proud at heart ; his own 
figure, in spite of his mean habiliments, assumed an air 
of state and grandeur. 

" It is well," cried old Moodie. " Keep your wealth. 
You are right worthy of it. Keep it, therefore; but 
with one condition only." 

Zenobia thought the old man beside himself, and was 
moved with pity. 

" Have you none to care for you ? " asked she. " No 
daughter ? — no kind-hearted neighbor ? — no means of 
procuring the attendance which you need ? Tell me, 
once again, can I do nothing for you ? " ^ 

" Nothing," he replied. " I have beheld what I 



FAUNTLEROY. 225 

wished. Now leave me. Linger not a moment longer, 
or I 'may be tempted to say what would bring a cloud 
over that queenly brow. Keep all your wealth, but with 
only this one condition : ^e Vl nd_ — - be noj pss l^ind 
than sisters are — to my poor Pnscilla ! " 

-^Andr-tt- may b e^-altoLJenobia withdrew, Fauntleroy 
paced his gloomy chamber, and communed with himself 
as follows ; — or, at all events, it is the only solution 
which I can offer of the enigma presented in his char- 
acter : 

" I am unchanged, — the same man as of yore ! " 
said he. " True, my brother's wealth — he dying intes- 
tate — is legally my own. I know it ; yet, of my own 
choice, I live a beggar, and go meanly clad, and hide 
myself behind a forgotten ignominy. Looks this like 
ostentation ? Ah ! but in Zenobia I live again ! Be- 
holding her, so beautiful, — so fit to be adorned with all 
imaginable splendor of outward state, — the cursed 
vanity, which, half a lifetime since, dropt off like tatters 
of once gaudy apparel from my debased and ruined per- 
son, is all renewed for her sake. Were I to reappear, 
my shame would go with me from darkness into day- 
light. Zenobia has the splendor, and not the shame. 
Let the world admire her, and be dazzled by her, the 
brilliant child of my prosperity ! It is Fauntleroy that 
still shines through her ! " 

But then, perhaps, another thought occurred to him. 

" My poor Priscilla ! And am I just to her, in sur- 
rendering all to this beautiful Zenobia ? Priscilla ! I 
love her best, — I love her only ! — but with shame, not 
pride. So dim, so pallid, so shrinking, — the daughter 
of my long calamity ! Wealth were but a mockery in 
15 



-/ 



226 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

Priscilla's hands. What is its use, except to fling a 
golden radiance around those who grasp it? Yet let 
Zenobia take heed ! Priscilla shall have no wrong ! " 

But, while the man of show thus meditated, — that 
very evening, so far as I can adjust the dates of these 
strange incidents, — Priscilla — poor, pallid flower ! — 
was either snatched from Zenobia's hand, or flung wil- 
fully away ! 



XXIIL 

A VILLAGE-HALL. 

Well, I betook myself away, and wandered up and 
down, like an exorcised spirit that had been driven from 
its old haunts after a mighty struggle. It takes down 
the solitary pride of man, beyond most other things, to 
find the impracticability of flinging aside affections that 
have grown irksome. The bands that were silken once 
are apt to become iron fetters when we desire to shake 
them ofl'. Our souls, after all, are not our own. We 
convey a property in them to those with whom we 
associate ; but to what extent can never be known, until 
we feel the tug, the agony, of our abortive effort to 
resume an exclusive sway over ourselves. Thus, in all 
the weeks of my absence, my thoughts continually 
reverted back, brooding over the by-gone months, and 
bringing up incidents that seemed hardly to have left a 
trace of themselves in their passage. I spent painful 
hours in recalling these trifles, and rendering them more 
misty and unsubstantial than at first by the quantity of 
speculative musing thus kneaded in with them. Hollings- 
worth, Zenobia, Priscilla ! These three had absorbed 
my life into themselves. Together with an inexpressible 
longing to know their fortunes, there was likewise a 
morbid resentment of my own pain, and a stubborn 
reluctance to come again within their sphere. 

All that I learned of them, therefore, was comprised 



228 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

• 

in a few brief and pungent squibs, such as the news- 
papers were then in the habit of bestowing on our 
socialist enterprise. There was one paragraph, which, 
if I rightly guessed its purport, bore reference to Zenobia, 
but was too darkly hinted to convey even thus much of 
certainty. Hollingsworth, too, with his philanthropic 
project, afforded the penny-a-liners a theme for some 
savage and bloody-minded jokes ; and, considerably to 
my surprise, they affected me with as much indignation 
as if we had still been friends. 

Thus passed several weeks ; time long enough for my 
brown and toil-hardened hands to re accustom themselves 
to gloves. Old habits, such as were merely external, 
returned upon me with wonderful promptitude. My 
superficial talk, too, assumed altogether a worldly tone. 
Meeting former acquaintances, who showed themselves 
inclined to ridicule my heroic devotion to the cause of 
human welfare, I spoke of the recent phase of my life as 
indeed fair matter for a jest. But I also gave them to 
understand that it was, at most, only an experiment, on 
which I had staked no valuable amount of hope or fear. 
Jt had enabled me to pass the summer in a novel and 
Egreeable way, had afforded me some grotesque speci- 
mens of artificial simplicity, and could not, therefore, so 
far as I was concerned, be reckoned a failure. In no 
one instance, however, did I voluntarily speak of my 
three friends. They dwelt in a pro founder region. The 
more I consider myself as I then was, the more do I 
recognize how deeply my connection with those three 
had affected all my being. 

As it was already the epoch of annihilated space, I 
might, in the time I was away from Blithedale, have 



A VILLAGE-HALL. 229 

snatched a glimpse at England, and been back again. 
But my wanderings were confined within a very limited 
sphere. I hopped and fluttered, like a bird with a string 
about its leg, gyrating round a small circumference, and 
keeping up a restless activity to no purpose. Thus it 
was still in our familiar Massachusetts, — in one of its 
white country-villages, — that I must next particularize 
an incident. 

The scene was one of those lyceum-halls, of w^hich 
almost every village has now its own, dedicated to that 
sober and pallid, or rather drab-colored, mode of winter- 
evening entertainment, the lecture. Of late years, this 
has come strangely into vogue, when the natural tend- 
ency of things would seem to be to substitute lettered 
for oral methods of addressing the public. But, in halls 
like this, besides the winter course of lectures, there is a 
rich and varied series of other exhibitions. Hither 
comes the ventriloquist, with all his mysterious tongues ; 
the thaumaturgist, too, with his miraculous transforma- 
tions of plates, doves, and rings, his pancakes smoking 
in your hat, and his cellar of choice liquors represented 
in one small bottle. Here, also, the itinerant professor 
instructs separate classes of ladies and gentlemen in 
physiology, and demonstrates his lessons by the aid 
of real skeletons, and mannikins in wax, from Paris. 
Here is to be heard the choir of Ethiopian melodists, 
and to be seen the diorama of Moscow or Bunker Hill, 
or the moving panorama of the Chinese wall. Here is 
displayed the museum of wax figures, illustrating the 
wide Catholicism of earthly renown, by mixing up heroes 
and statesmen, the pope and the Mormon prophet, kings, 
queens, murderers, and beautiful ladies ; every sort of per- 



230 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

son, in short, except authors, of whom I never beheld 
even the most famous done in wax. And here, in this 
many-purposed hall (unless the selectmen of the village 
chance to have more than their share of the Puritanism 
which, however diversified with later patchwork, still 
gives its prevailing tint to New England character), here 
the company of strolling players sets up its little stage, 
and claims patronage for the legitimate drama. 

But, on the autumnal evening which I speak of, a 
number of printed handbills — - stuck up in the bar-room, 
and on the sign-post of the hotel, and on the meeting- 
house porch, and distributed largely through the vil- 
lage — had promised the inhabitants an interview with 
that celebrated and hitherto inexplicable phenomenon, 
the Veiled Lady ! 

The hall was fitted up with an amphitheatrical descent 
of seats towards a platform, on which stood a desk, two 
lights, a stool, and a capacious antique chair. The au- 
dience was of a generally decent and respectable character: 
old farmers, in their Sunday black coats, with shrewd, 
hard, sun-dried faces, and a cynical humor, oftener than 
any other expression, in their eyes ; pretty girls, in many- 
colored attire ; pretty young men, — the schoolmaster, 
the lawyer or student at law, the shopkeeper, — all 
looking rather suburban than rural. In these days, 
there is absolutely no rusticity, except when the actual 
labor of the soil leaves its earth-mould on the person. 
There w^as likewise a considerable proportion of young 
and middle-aged women, many of them stern in feature, 
with marked foreheads, and a very definite line of eye- 
brow ; a type of womanhood in which a bold intellectual 
development seems to be keeping pace with the progress- 



A VILLAGE -HALL. 231 

ive delicacy of the physical constitution. Of all these 
people I took note, at first, according to my custom. 
But I ceased to do so the moment that my eyes fell on an 
individual who sat two or three seats below me, immov- 
able, apparently deep in thought, with his back, of course, 
towards me, and his face turned steadfastly upon the 
platform. 

After sitting- a while in contemplation of this person's 
familiar contour, 1 was irresistibly moved to step over 
the intervening benches, lay my hand on his shoulder, 
put my mouth close to his ear, and address him in a 
sepulchral, melo-dramatic whisper : 

" Hollingsworth ! where have you left Zenobia ? " 

His nerves, however, were proof against my attack. 
He turned half around, and looked me in the face with 
great, sad eyes, in which there was neither kindness nor 
resentment, nor any perceptible surprise. 

" Zenobia, when I last saw her," he answered, " was 
at Blithedale." 

He said no more. But there was a great deal of talk 
going on near me, among a knot of people who might 
be considered as representing the mysticism, or rather 
the mystic sensuality, of this singular age. The nature 
of the exhibition that was about to take place had prob- 
ably given the turn to their conversation. 

I heard, from a pale man in blue spectacles, some 
stranger stories than ever were written in a romance ; 
told, too, with a simple, unimaginative steadfastness, which 
was terribly efficacious in compelling the auditor to re- 
ceive them into the category of established facts. He cited 
instances of the miraculous power of one human being 
over the will and passions of another; insomuch that 



232 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

settled grief was but a shadow beneath the influence of 
a man possessing this potency, and the strong love of 
years melted away like a vapor. At the bidding of one 
of these wizards, tli^-4ftaijdajaj_^th Tier ^lover's kis s still 
burning on her lips, would turn from him witli,^icy__in dif- 
ference ; the newlyjdnadjB-mdovoY^iildl d^^ 
heart ou t of h'^r y^'^^u hiishnp'^''== Z^^ Y^ before the sods 
had taken root upon it ; a mother, with her babe's milk in 
her bosom, would thrust away her child. Human char- 
acter was but soft wax in his hands ; and guilt, or virtue, 
only the forms into which he should see fit to mould it. 
The religious sentiment was a flame which he could 
blow up with his breath, or a spark that he could utterly 
extinguish. It is unutterable, the horror and disgust 
with which I listened, and saw that, if these things were 
to be believed, the individual soul was virtually annihi- 
lated, and all that is sweet and pure in our present life 
debased, and that the idea of man's eternal responsibility 
was made ridiculous, and immortality rendered at once 
impossible, and not worth acceptance. But I would 
have perished on the spot, sooner than believe it] 



The epoch of rapj5ing' spirilSTand^aTl the wonders that 
have followed in their train, — such as tables upset by 
invisible agencies, bells self-tolled at funerals, and ghostly 
music performed on jewsharps, — had not yet arrived. 
Alas, my countrymen, methinks we have fallen on an 
evil age ! If these phenomena have not humbug at the 
bottom, so much the worse for us. What can they in- 
dicate, in a spiritual way, except that the soul of man is 
descending to a lower point than it has ever before 
reached while incarnate? We are pursuing a down- 
ward course in the eternal march, and thus bring our- 



A VILLAGE-HALL. 233 

selves into the same range with beings whom death, in 
requital of their gross and evil lives, has degraded below 
humanity! To hold intercourse with spirits of this 
order, we must stoop and grovel in some element more 
vile than earthly dust. These goblins, if they exist at 
all, are but the shadows of past mortality, outcasts, mere 
refuse-stuff, adjudged unworthy of the eternal world, 
and, on the most favorable supposition, dwindling grad- 
ually into nothingness. The less we have to say to 
them the better, lest we share their fate ! 

The audience now began to be impatient ; they signi- 
fied their desire for the entertainment to commence by- 
thump of sticks and stamp of boot-heels. Nor was it a 
great while longer before, in response to their call, there 
appeared a bearded personage in oriental robes, looking 
like one of the enchanters of the Arabian Nights. He 
came upon the platform from a side-door, saluted the 
spectators, not with a salaam, but a bow, took his station 
at the desk, and first blowing his nose with a white hand- 
kerchief, prepared to speak. The environment of the 
homely village-hall, and the absence of many ingenious 
contrivances of stage-eflTect with which the exhibition 
had heretofore been set oflT, seemed to bring the artifice 
of this character more openly upon the surface. No 
sooner did I behold the bearded enchanter, than, laying 
my hand again on Hollingsworth's shoulder, I whispered 
in his ear, 

" Do you know him ? " 

" I never saw the man before," he muttered, without 
turning his head. 

But I had seen him three times already. Once, on 
occasion of my first visit to the Veiled Lady ; a second 



234 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

time, in the wood-path at Blithedale ; and lastly, in 
Zenobia's drawing-room. It was Westervelt. A quick 
association of ideas made me shudder from head to foot ; 
and again, like an evil spirit, bringing up reminiscences 
of a man's sins, I whispered a question in HoUings- 
worth's ear, — 

" What have you done with Priscilla ? " 

He gave a convulsive start, as if I had thrust a knife 
into him, writhed himself round on his seat, glared 
fiercely into my eyes, but answered not a word. 

The Professor began his discourse, explanatory of the 
psychological phenomena, as he termed them, which it 
was his purpose to exhibit to the spectators. There 
remains no very distinct impression of it on my mem- 
ory. It_was eloquent, ingenious, plausible, with a delu- 
sive showl:jf spirituality, yet really imbued throughout 
with a cold and dead materialism. I shivered, as at a 
current of chill air issuing out of a sepulchral vault, and 
bringing the smell of corruption along with it. He 
spoke of a new era that was dawning upon the world ; 
an era that would link soul to soul, and the present life 
to what we call futurity, with a closeness that should 
finally convert both worlds into one great, mutually con- 
scious brotherhood. He described (in a strange, philo- 
sophical guise, with terms of art, as if it were a matter 
of chemical discovery) the agency by which this mighty 
result was to be effected ; nor would it have surprised me, 
had he pretended to hold up a portion of his universally 
pervasive fluid, as he affirmed it to be, in a glass phial. 

At the close of his exordium, the Professor beckoned 
with his hand, — once, twice, thrice, — and a figure 
came gliding upon the platform, enveloped in a long veil 
of silvery whiteness. It fell about her like the texture 



A VILLAGE-HALL. 235 

of a summer cloud, with a kind of vagueness, so that 
the outline of the form beneath it could not be accurately 
discerned. But the movement of the Veiled Lady was 
graceful, free and unembarrassed, like that of a person 
accustomed to be the spectacle of thousands ; or, possi- 
bly, a blindfold prisoner within the sphere with which 
this dark earthly magician had surrounded her, she was 
wholly unconscious of being the central object to all 
those straining eyes. 

Pliant to his gesture (which had even an obsequious 
courtesy, but at the same time a remarkable decisive- 
ness), the figure placed itself in the great chair. Sitting 
there, in such visible obscurity, it was perhaps as much 
like the actual presence of a disembodied spirit as any- 
thing that stage trickery could devise. The hushed 
breathing of the spectators proved how high-wrought 
were their anticipations of the wonders to be performed 
through the medium of this incomprehensible creature. 
I, too, was in breathless suspense, but with a far dif- 
ferent presentiment of some strange event at hand. 

" You see before you the Veiled Lady," said the 
bearded Professor, advancing to the verge of the plat- 
form. " By the agency of which I have just spoken, she 
is at this moment in communion with the spiritual 
world. That silvery veil is, in one sense, an enchant- 
ment, having been dipped, as it were, and essentially 
imbued, through the potency of my art, with the fluid 
medium of spirits. Slight and ethereal as it seems, the 
limitations of time and space have no existence within 
its folds. This hall — these hundreds of faces, encom- 
passing her within so narrow an amphitheatre — are of 
thinner substance, in her view, than the airiest vapor 
that the clouds are made of. She beholds the Absolute ! " 



236 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

As preliminary to other and far more wonderful psy- 
chological experiments, the exhibiter suggested that some 
of his auditors should endeavor to make the Veiled Lady 
sensible of their presence by such methods — provided 
only no touch were laid upon her person — as they 
might deem best adapted to that end. Accordingly, 
several deep-lunged country-fellows, who looked as if 
they might have blown the apparition away with a breath, 
ascended the platform. Mutually encouraging one 
another, they shouted so close to her ear that the veil 
stirred like a wreath of vanishing mist ; they smote 
upon the floor with bludgeons ; they perpetrated so 
hideous a clamor, that methought it might have reached, 
at least, a little way into the eternal sphere. Finally, 
with the assent of the Professor, they laid hold of the 
great chair, and were startled, apparently, to find it soar 
upward, as if lighter than the air through which it rose. 
But the Veiled Lady remained seated and motionless, 
with a composure that was hardly less than awful, 
because implying so immeasurable a distance betwixt her 
and these rude persecutors. 

" These efforts are wholly without avail," observed the 
Professor, who had been looking on with an aspect of 
serene indifference. '' The roar of a battery of cannon 
would be inaudible to the Veiled Lady. And yet, were 
I to will it, sitting in this very hall, she could hear the 
desert wind sweeping over the sands as far off as Arabia ; 
the icebergs grinding one against the other in the polar 
seas ; the rustle of a leaf in an East Indian forest ; the 
lowest whispered breath of the bashfulest maiden in the 
world, uttering the first confession of her love. Nor does 
there exist the moral inducement, apart from my own 



A VILLAGE-HALL. 237 

behest, that could persuade her to lift the silvery veil, or 
arise out of that chair." 

Greatly to the Professor's discomposure, however, just 
as he spoke these words, the Veiled Lady arose. There 
was a mysterious tremor that shook the magic veil. The 
spectators, it may be, imagined that she was about to 
take flight into that invisible sphere, and to the society 
of those purely spiritual beings with whom they reck- 
oned her so near akin. Hollings worth, a moment ago, 
had mounted the platform, and now stood gazing at the 
figure, with a sad intentness that brought the whole 
power of his great, stern, yet tender soul into his glance. 

" Come," said he, waving his hand towards her. " You 
are safe ! " 

She threw off the veil, and stood before that multitude 
of people pale, tremulous, shrinking, as if only then had 
she discovered that a thousand eyes were gazing at her. 
Poor maiden ! How strangely had she been betrayed ! 
Blazoned abroad as a wonder of the world, and perform- 
ing what were adjudged as miracles, — in the faith of 
many, a seeress and a prophetess ; in the harsher judg- 
ment of others, a mountebank, — she had kept, as I 
religiously believe, her virgin reserve and sanctity of 
soul throughout it all. Within that encircling veil, 
though an evil hand had flung it over her, there was as 
deep a seclusion as if this forsaken girl had, all the 
while, been sitting under the shadow of Eliot's pulpit, 
in the Blithedale woods, at the feet of him who now 
summoned her to the shelter of his arms. And the true 
heart-throb of a woman's afTection was too powerful for 
the jugglery that had hitherto environed her. She 
uttered a shriek, and fled to HoUingsworth, like one 
escaping from her deadliest enemy, and was safe forever ! 



XXIV. 

THE MASQUERADERS. 

Two nights had passed since the foregoing occur- 
rences, when, in a breezy September forenoon, I set forth 
from town, on foot, towards Blithedale. 

It was the most delightful of all days for a walk, with 
a dash of invigorating ice-temper in the air, but a cool- 
ness that soon gave place to the brisk glow of exercise, 
while the vigor remained as elastic as before. The 
atmosphere had a spirit and sparkle in it. Each breath 
was like a sip of ethereal wine, tempered, as I said, with 
a crystal lump of ice. I had started on this expedition 
in an exceedingly sombre mood, as well befitted one who 
found himself tending towards home, but was conscious 
that nobody would be quite overjoyed to greet him 
there. My feet were hardly off the pavement, however, 
when this morbid sensation began to yield to the lively 
influences of air and motion. Nor had I gone far, with 
fields yet green on either side, before my step became 
as swift and light as if Hollings worth were waiting 
to exchange a friendly hand-grip, and Zenobia's and 
Priscilla's open arms would welcome the wanderer's re- 
appearance. It has happened to me, on other occasions, 
as well as this, to prove how a state of physical well- 
being can create a kind of joy, in spite of the profoundest 
anxiety of mind. 

The pathway of that walk still runs along, with sunny 



THE MASQUERADERS. 239 

freshness, through my memory. I know not why it 
should be so. But my mental eye can even now dis- 
cern the September grass, bordering the pleasant road- 
side with a brighter verdure than while the summer 
heats were scorching it; the trees, too, mostly green, 
although here and there a branch or shrub has donned 
its vesture of crimson and gold a week or two before its 
fellows. I see the tufted barberry-bushes, with their 
small clusters of scarlet fruit ; the toadstools, likewise, — 
some spotlessly white, others yellow or red, — mysterious 
growths, springing suddenly from no root or seed, and 
growing nobody can tell how or wherefore. In this re- 
spect they resembled many of the emotions in my breast. 
And I still see the little rivulets, chill, clear and bright, 
that murmured beneath the road, through subterranean 
rocks, and deepened into mossy pools, where tiny fish 
were darting to and fro, and within which lurked the 
hermit-frog. But no, — I never can account for it, 
that, with a yearning interest to learn the upshot of all 
my story, and returning to Blithedale for that sole pur- 
pose, I should examine these things so like a peaceful- 
bosomed naturalist. Nor why, amid all my sympathies 
and fears, there shot, at times, a wild exhilaration 
through my frame. 

Thus I pursued my way along the line of the ancient 
stone wall that Paul Dudley built, and through white 
villages, and past orchards of ruddy apples, and fields of 
ripening maize, and patches of woodland, and all such 
sweet rural scenery as looks the fairest, a little beyond 
the suburbs of a town. Hollingsworth, Zenobia, Pris- 
cilla ! They glided mistily before me, as I walked. 
Sometimes, in my solitude, I laughed with the bitterness 



240 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

of self-scorn, remembering how unreservedly I had given 
up my heart and soul to interests that were not mine. 
What had I ever had to do with them? And why, 
being now free, should I take this thraldom on me once 
again ? It was both sad and dangerous, 1 whispered to 
myself, to be in too close affinity with the passions, the 
errors and the misfortunes, of individuals who stood 
within a circle of their own, into which, if I stept at all, 
• it mast be as an intruder, and at a peril that I could not 
estimate. 

Drawing nearer to Blithedale, a sickness of the spirits 
kept alternating with my flights of causeless buoyancy. 
I indulged in a hundred odd and extravagant conjectures. 
Either there was no such place as Blithedale, nor ever 
had been, nor any brotherhood of thoughtful laborers 
like what I seemed to recollect there, or else it was all 
changed during my absence. It had been nothing but 
dream-work and enchantment. I should seek in vain 
for the old farm-house, and for the green-sward, the 
potato-fields, the root-crops, and acres of Indian corn, 
and for all that configuration of the land which I had 
imagined. It would be another spot, and an utter 
strangeness. 

These vagaries were of the spectral throng so apt to 
steal out of an unquiet heart. They partly ceased to 
haunt me, on my arriving at a point whence, through 
the trees, I began to catch glimpses of the Blithedale 
farm. That surely was something real. There was 
hardly a square foot of all those acres on which I had 
not trodden heavily, in one or another kind of toil. The 
curse of Adam's posterity — and, curse or blessing be it, 
it gives substance to the life around us — had first come 



THE MASQUERADERS. 241 

upon me there. In the sweat of my brow I had there 
earned bread and eaten it, and so established my claim 
to be on earth, and my fellowship with all the sons of 
labor. I could have knelt down, and have la^id my 
breast against that soil. The red clay of which my 
frame was moulded seemed nearer akin to those crum- 
bling furrows than to any other portion of the world's 
dust. There was my home, and there might be my 
grave. 

I felt an invincible reluctance, nevertheless, at the 
idea of presenting myself before my old associates, w^ith- 
out first ascertaining the state in which they were. A 
nameless foreboding weighed upon me. Perhaps, should 
I know all the circumstances that had occurred, I might 
find it my wisest course to turn back, unrecognized, un- 
seen, and never look at Blithedale more. Had it been 
evening, I would have stolen softly to some lighted win- 
dow of the old farm-house, and peeped darkling in, to see 
all their well-known faces round the supper-board. Then, 
were there a vacant seat, I might noiselessly unclose the 
door, glide in, and take my place among them, without 
a word. My entrance might be so quiet, my aspect so 
familiar, that they would forget how long I had been 
away, and suffer me to melt into the scene, as a wreath 
of vapor melts into a larger cloud. I dreaded a bois- 
terous greeting. Beholding^me at table, Zenobia, as a 
matterj)f_course, would send me a cup of tea, and Hol- 
lingsworth fill my plate from the great dish of pan- 
dowdy, and Priscilla, in her quiet way, would hand the 
cream, and others help me to the bread and butter. Be- 
ing one of them again, the knowledge of what had hap- 
pened would come to me without a shock. For still, at 
16 



242 THE BLITHEDALE KOMANCE 

every turn of my shifting fantasies, the thought stared 
me in the face that some evil thing had befallen us, or 
was ready to befall. 

Yielding to this ominous impression, I now turned 
aside into the woods, resolving to spy out the posture of 
the Community, as craftily as the wild Indian before he 
makes his onset. I would go wandering about the out- 
skirts of the farm, and, perhaps, catching sight cf a soli- 
tary acquaintance, would approach him amid the brown 
shadows of the trees (a kind of medium fit for spirits 
departed and revisitant, like myself), and entreat him to 
tell me how all things were. 

The first living creature that I met was a partridge 
which sprung up beneath my feet, and whirred away; 
the next was a squirrel, who chattered angrily at me 
from an overhanging bough. I trod along by the dark, 
sluggish river, and remember pausing on the bank, above 
one of its blackest and most placid pools — (the very spot, 
with the barkless stump of a tree aslantwise over the 
water, is depicting itself to my fancy at this instant), — 
and wondering how deep it was, and if any over-laden 
soul had ever flung its weight of mortality in thither, 
and if it thus escaped the burthen, or only made it 
heavier. And perhaps the skeleton of the drowned 
wretch still lay beneath the inscrutable depth, clinging 
to some sunken log at the bottom with the gripe of its 
old despair. So slight, however, was the track of these 
gloomy ideas, that I soon forgot them in the contempla- 
tion of a brood of wild ducks, which were floating on 
the river, and anon took flight, leaving each a bright 
streak over the black surface. By and by, I came to my 
hermitage, in the heart of the white-pine tree, and clam- 



THE MASQUERADERS. 243 

bering up into it, sat down to rest. The grapes, which I 
had watched throughout the summer, now dangled around 
me in abundant clusters of the deepest purple, deliciously 
sweet to the taste, and, though wild, yet free from that 
ungentle flavor which distinguishes nearly all our native 
and uncultivated grapes. Methought a wine might be 
pressed out of them possessing a passionate zest, and 
endowed with a new kind of intoxicating quality, at- 
tended with such bacchanalian ecstacies as the tamer 
grapes of Madeira, France, and the Rhine, are inade- 
quate to produce. And I longed to quaff a great goblet 
of it at that moment ! 

While devouring the grapes, I looked on all sides out 
of the peep-holes of my hermitage, and saw the farm- 
house, the fields, and almost every part of our domain, 
but not a single human figure in the landscape. Some 
of the windows of the house were open, but with no 
more signs of life than in a dead man's unshut eyes. 
The barn-door was ajar, and swinging in the breeze. 
The big old dog, — he was a relic of the former dynasty 
of the farm, — that hardly ever stirred out of the yard, 
was nowhere to be seen. What, then, had become of 
all the fraternity and sisterhood ? Curious to ascertain 
this point, I let myself down out of the tree, and going 
to the edge of the wood, was glad to perceive our herd 
of cows chewing the cud or grazing not far off. I fan- 
cied, by their manner, that two or three of them recog- 
nized me (as, indeed, they ought, for I had milked them 
and been their chamberlain times without number) ; but, 
after staring me in the face a little while, they phleg- 
matically began grazing and chewing their cuds again. 
Then I grew foolishly angry at so cold a reception, and 



244 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

flung some rotten fragments of an old stump at these 
unsentimental cows. 

Skirting further round the pasture, I heard voices and 
much laughter proceeding from the interior of the wood. 
Voices, male and feminine ; laughter, not only of fresh 
young throats, but the bass of grown people, as if solemn 
organ-pipes should pour out airs of merriment. Not a 
voice spoke, but I knew it better than my own ; not a 
laugh, but its cadences were familiar. The w^ood, in 
this portion of it, seemed as full of jollity as if Comus 
and his crew were holding their revels in one of its usu- 
ally lonesome glades. Stealing onward as far as I durst, 
without hazard of discovery, I saw a concourse of strange 
figures beneath the overshadowing branches. They ap- 
peared, and vanished, and came again, confusedly, with 
the streaks of sunlight glimmering down upon them. 

Among them was an Indian chief, with blanket, feath- 
ers and war-paint, and uplifted tomahawk ; and near 
him, looking fit to be his woodland-bride, the goddess 
Diana, with the crescent on her head, and attended by 
our big lazy dog, in lack of any fleeter hound. Draw- 
ing an arrow from her quiver, she let it fly at a venture, 
and hit the very tree behind which I happened to be lurk- 
ing. Another group consisted of a Bavarian broom-girl, 
a negro of the Jim Crow order, one or two foresters of 
the middle ages, a Kentucky woodsman in his trimmed 
hunting-shirt and deerskin leggings, and a Shaker elder, 
([uaint, demure, broad-brimmed, and square-skirted. 
Shepherds of Arcadia, and allegoric figures from the 
Faerie Queen, were oddly mixed up with these. Arm 
in arm, or otherwise huddled together in strange dis- 
crepancy, stood grim Puritans, gay Cavaliers, and Revo- 



THE IVIASQUERADERS. 245 

lutionary officers with three-cornered cocked hats, and 
queues longer than their swords. A bright-complex- 
.ioned, dark-haired, vivacious little gypsy, with a red 
shawl over her head, went from one group to another, 
telling fortunes by palmistry; and Moll Pitcher, the 
renowned old witch of Lynn, broomstick in hand, showed 
herself prominently in the midst, as if announcing all 
these apparitions to be the offspring of her necromantic 
art. But Silas Foster, who leaned against a tree near 
by, in his customary blue frock, and smoking a short 
pipe, did more to disenchant the scene, with his look of 
shrewd, acrid, Yankee observation, than twenty witches 
and necromancers could have done in the way of ren- 
dering it weird and fantastic. 

A little further off, some old-fashioned skinkers and 
drawers, all with portentously red noses, were spread- 
ing a banquet on the leaf-strewn earth ; while a horned 
and long-tailed gentleman (in whom I recognized the 
fiendish musician erst seen by Tam O'Shanter) tuned 
his fiddle, and summoned the whole motley rout to a 
dance, before partaking of the festal cheer. So they 
joined hands in a circle, whirling round so swiftly, so 
madly, and so merrily, in time and tune with the Sa- 
tanic music, that their separate incongruities were 
blended all together, and they became a kind of en- 
tanglement that went nigh to turn one's brain with 
merely looking at it. Anon they stopt all of a sudden, 
and staring at one another's figures, set up a roar of 
laughter; whereat a shower of the September leaves 
(which, all day long, had been hesitating whether to fall 
or no) were shaken off by the movement of the air, and 
came eddying down upon the revellers. 



246 THE BLITHEDALE R03MANCE. 

Then, for lack of breath, ensued a silence; at the 
deepest point of which, tickled by the oddity of surprising 
my grave associates in this masquerading trim, I^xmikL 
not possibly refrain from_a burst of laughter on my own 



separate account. 

" ^JuskJJUiieard the pretty gypsy fortune-teller say. 
" Who is that laughing ?" 

" Some profane intruder ! " said the goddess Diana. 
"I shall send an arrow through his heart, or change him 
into a stag, as I did Actseon, if he peeps from behind the 
trees ! " 

" Me take his scalp ! " cried the Indian chief, brandish- 
ing his tomahawk, and cutting a great caper in the air. 

" I '11 root him in the earth with a spell that I have 
at my tongue's end!" squeaked Moll Pitcher. "And the 
green moss shall grow all over him, before he gets free 
again ! '' 

" The voice was Miles Coverdale's," said the fiendish 
fiddler, with a whisk of his tail and a toss of his horns. 
" My music has brought him hither. He is always 
ready to dance to the devil's tune ! " 

Thus put on the right track, they all recognized the 
voice at once, and set up a simultaneous shout. 

" Miles ! Miles ! Miles Coverdale, where are you ?" 
they cried. " Zeriabia ! Queen Zenobia ! here is one of 
your vassals lurking in the wood. Command him to 
approach, and pay his duty ! " 

The whole fantastic rabble forthwith streamed off in 
pursuit of me, so that I was like a mad poet hunted by 
chimeras. Having fairly the start of them, however, I 
succeeded in making my escape, and soon left their 
merriment and riot at a good distance in the rear. Its 



THE MASQUE RADERS. 247 

fainter tones assumed a kind of mournfulness, and were 
finally lost in the hush and solemnity of the wood. In 
my haste, I stumbled over a heap of logs and sticks that 
had been cut for fire -wood, a great while ago, by some 
former possessor of the soil, and piled up square, in 
order to be carted or sledded away to the farm-house. 
But, being forgotten, they had lain there perhaps fifty 
years, and possibly much longer ; until, by the accumu- 
lation of moss, and the leaves falling over them and 
decaying there, from autumn to autumn, a green mound 
was formed, in which the softened outline of the wood- 
pile was still perceptible. In the fitful mood that then 
swayed my mind, I found something strangely aflfecting 
in this simple circumstance. I imagined the long-dead 
woodman, and his long-dead wife and children, coming 
out of their chill graves, and essaying to make a fire with 
this heap of mossy fuel ! 

From this spot I strayed onward, quite lost in reverie, 
and neither knew nor cared whither I was going, until 
a low, soft, well-remembered voice spoke, at a little 
distance. 

" There is Mr. Coverdale ! " 

"Miles Coverdale!" said another voice, — and its 
tones were very stern. "Let him come forward, then!" 

"Yes, Mr. Coverdale," cried a woman's voice, — clear 
and melodious, but, just then, with something unnatural 
in its chord, — " you are welcome ! But you come half 
an hour too late, and have missed a scene which you 
would have enjoyed ! " 

I looked up, and found myself nigh Eliot's pulpit, at 
the base of which sat Hollingsworth, with Priscilla at 
his feet,, and. Zen obia standing beft>3;:e jhem. 



XXV. 

THE THREE TOGETHER. 

HoLLiNGSwoRTH was in his ordinary working-dress. 
Priscilla wore a pretty and simple gown, with a kerchief 
about her neck, and a calash, which she had flung back 
from her head, leaving it suspended by the strings. 
But Zenobia (whose part among the maskers, as may 
be supposed, was no inferior one) appeared in a costume 
of fanciful magnificence, with her jewelled flower as the 
central ornament of what resembled a leafy crown, or 
coronet. She represented the orientaL^priricess__by 
whose name we were accustomed to know her. Her 
attitude was fr ee and nobl e ; y et, if a queen's, it was n ot 
that of a queen tri umphant, bu ^-dethrone dj on trial for 
J her life, or, per^^ hance, coa denmedj ^ready . The spirit 
of the conflict seemed, nevertheless, to be alive in her. 
Her eyes were on fire ; her cheeks had each a crimson 
spot, so exceedingly vivid, and marked with so definite 
an outline, that I at first doubted whether it were not 
artificial. In a very brief space, however, this idea was 
shamed by the paleness that ensued, as the blood sunk 
suddenly away. Zenobia now looked like marble. 

One always feels the fact, in an instant, when he has 
intruded on those who love, or those who hate, at some 
acme of their passion that puts them into a sphere of 
their own, where no other spirit can pretend to stand on 
equal ground with them. I was confused, — afifected 



THE THREE TOGETHER. 249 

even with a species of terror, — and wished myself away. 
The intentness of their feelings gave them the exclusive 
property of the soil and atmosphere, and left me no right 
to be or breathe there. 

*' Hollingsworth, — Zenobia, — I have just returned 
to Blithedale," said I, " and had no thought of finding 
you here. We shall meet again at the house. I will 
retire." 

" This place is free to you," answered Hollingsworth. 

" As free as to ourselves," added Zenobia. " This 
long while past, you have been following up your game, 
groping for human emotions in the dark corners of the 
heart. Had you been here a little sooner, you might 
have seen them dragged into the daylight. I could 
even wish to have my trial over again, with you stand- 
ing by to see fair play ! Do yon ktiQW3j\Ix,..>Ge¥ej;daie>_-. 
J havR hpRn or ^ trjfil fi^rjTrY^lif^ ?" 

She laughed, while speaking thus. But, in truth, as 
my eyes wandered from one of the group to another, I 
saw in Hollingsworth all that an artist could desire for 
the rgrim portra iLQilA-lP'^^^^^njil!12Jfj][^^^ holding inquest 
of life ^nd-dealh-in-ar-Gase of witchcraft ; — in Zenobia, 
tha-sor^eress-heiselfrfto^-^ig^dj^wrinkk and decrepit, but 
faif-^»ough to tempt Satan, with a force reciprocal to his 
.own ; — and, in Priscilla, the pale victim, whose soul 
and body had been wasted by her spells. Had a pile 
of fagots been heaped against the rock, this hint of 
impending doom would have completed the suggestive 
picture. 

" It was too hard upon me," continued Zenobia, ad- 
dressing Hollingsworth, '* that judge, jury and accuser, 
should all be comprehended in one man ! I demur, as 



250 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

I think the lawyers say, to the jurisdiction. But let the 
learned Judge Coverdale seat himself on the top of the 
rock, and you and me stand at its base, side by side, 
pleading our cause before him ! There might, at least, 
be two criminals, instead of one." 

" '^iQlj,--fofce4_this_-^nn replied Hollingsworth, 
looking her sternly in the faceT ' ^ XUd JuiSttr^ou hither 
from aiiLQjQgLihfi^masqueraders yonder ? Do I assume to 
be your judge? No; except so far as I have an unques- 
tionable right of judgment, in order to settle my own 
line of behavior towards those with whom the events of 
life bring me in contact. True, I have already judged 
you, but not on the world's part, — neither do I pretend 
to pass a sentence ! " 

*' Ah, this is very good !" said Zenobia, with a smile. 
" What strange beings you men are, Mr. Coverdale I — 
is it not so ? It is the simplest thing in the world with 
you to bring a wo man before your secre t tribunals, and 
judge and condem n her unheard, an d then tell her to 
go free without a sentence, '.^he misfortune is/tKatthis 
saruesecret tribunal chances to be the only j udgment- 
S£at that a true woman stands inawe_of^and that 
aiftyjverdicl,&kQrt of jL^glii^ to a , death- 

sentence ! " 

The more I looked at them, and the more I heard, the 
stronger grew my impression that a crisis had just come 
and gone. On Hollingsworth's brow it had left a stamp 
like that of irrevocable doom, of which his own will was 
the instrument. In Zenobia's whole person, beholding 
her more closely, I saw a riotous agitation ; the almost 
delirious disquietude of a great struggle, at the close of 
which the vanquished one felt her strength and courage 



THE THREE TOGETHER. 251 

Still mighty within her, and longed to renew the contest. 
My sensations were as if I had come upon a battle-field 
before the smoke was as yet cleared away. 

And what subjects had been discussed here ? All, no 
doubt, that for so many months past had kept my heart 
and my imagination idly feverish. Zenobia's whole 
character and history; the true nature of her mys- 
terious connection with Westervelt ; her later purposes 
towards Hollingsworth, and, reciprocally, his in refer- 
ence to her; and, finally, the degree in which Zenobia 
had been cognizant of the plot against Priscilla, and 
what, at last, had been the real object of that scheme. 
On these points, as before, I was left to my own conjec- 
tures. One thing, only, was certain. Z enobia an d Hol- 
Jings worth w ere friends no longer. If their heart-strings 
were ever intertwined, the knot had been adjudged an 
entanglement, and was now violently broken. 

But Zenobia seemed unable to rest content with the 
matter in the posture which it had assumed. 

" Ah ! do we part so ? " exclaimed she, seeing Hol- 
lingsworth about to retire. 

" And why not ? " said he, with almost rude abrupt- 
ness. " What is there further to be said between us ? " 

" Well , perhaps nothing," answered Zenobia, looking 
him in the face, and smiling. " But we have come, 
many times before, to this gray rock, and we have talked 
very softly among the whisperings of the birch-trees. 
They were pleasant hours ! I love to make the latest 
of them, though not altogether so delightful, loiter away 
as slowly as may be. And, besides, you have put many 
queries to me at this, which you design to be our last, 
interview; and being driven, as I must acknowledge. 



252 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

into a corner, I have responded with reasonable frank- 
ness. But, now, with your free consent, I desire the 
privilege of asking a few questions, in my turn." 

" I have no concealments," said Hollingsworth. 

*' We shall see," answered Zenobia. " I would first 
inquire whether yoiiJmv^_^suppc«e^Hfifle>ta_be_w^ 

" On that point," observed Hollingsworth, " I have 
had the opirfion which the world holds." 

" And I held it, likewise," said Zenobia. " Had I 
not. Heaven is my witness, the knowledge should have 
been as free to you as me. Itisjonl^J^reedays since I 
knew^he strange fact that-threatgns to make me poof; 
and your own a^c^uaiejance w4th it, I suspect, is of at 
least-as-oid-a^iiate. I fancied myself affluent, ^dii^are 
aware, too, of the disposition which I purposed making 
of the larger portion of my imaginary opulence ; — nay, 
were it all, I had not hesitated. Let me ask you, fur- 
ther, did I'"iei?=e^p~propo.sa-.o¥4fttimate any terms of com- 
pact, on which depended this — as the world would con- 
sider it — ^ important sacrifice ? " 

" You certainly spoke of none," said Hollingsworth. 

" Nor meant any," she responded. " I was willing to 
realize your dream, freely, — generously, as some might 
think, — but, at all events, fully, and heedless though it 
should prove the ruin of my fortune. If, in your own 
thoughts, you have imposed any conditions of this ex- 
penditure, it is you that must be held responsible for 
whatever is sordid and unworthy in them. And now, 
one other question. Do y ou love this girl ? " 

*' O, Zenobia ! " exclaimed Priscilla, shrinking back, 
as if longing for the rock to topple over and hide her. 

" Do you love her ? " repeated Zenobia. 



THE THREE TOGETHER. 253 

" Had you asked me that question a short time since," 
replied Hollingsworth, after a pause, during which, it 
seemed to me, even the birch-trees held their whispering 
breath, " I should have told you — ^ No ! ' My feelings 
for Priscilla differed little from those of an elder brother, 
watching tenderly over the gentle sister whom God has 
given him to protect." 

*' And what is your answer now ? " persisted Zenobia. 

"J do love her ! " said Hollingsworth, uttering the 
words witliadeep inward breath, instead of speaking 
them outright. "As well declare it^thus as in any 
other way. I do love her ! " 

" Now, God be judge between us," cried Zenobia, 
breaking into sudden passion, " which of us two has most 
mortally offended him ! ALieast^ am a woman, with 
every fa ult, it m ay^Jba , that g w oman ever ha d, — weak, 
vain, unprincipj.£d-(li ke most of my sex ; for pur virtues, 
whejn \ye have any^are merely impulsive and intuitive), 
pass ionate^ too, and pu rsumg my foolish and unattain- 
able ends by indirect and cunning, _lhough absurdly 
chosen means, as an hereditary bond-slave must ; false, 
moreover, to the whole circle of good, in my reckless 
truth to the little good I saw before me, — but still a 
woman ! A creature whom only a little change of 
earthly fortune, a little kinder smile of Him who sent 
me hither, and one true heart to encourage and direct 
me, might have made all that a woman can beJ^JBut- 
ho\^ is it with you ?_ Are you a man4 — -Nirri)ut a 
monster! ST^cold, heartless, self-beginning and selt_ 
ending piece "of mechamsfffT" 

**-WiTlrwhat, then, do you charge me ? " asked Hol- 
lingsworth, aghast and greatly disturbed by this attack. 



1 



254 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" Show me one selfish end, in all I ever aimed at, and 
you may cut it out of my bosom with a knife ! " 

" It is all self ! " answered Zenobia, with still intenser 
bitterness. "Nothing else; nothing but self, self, self! 
The fiend, I doubt not, has made his choicest mirth of 
you, these seven years past, and especially in the mad 
summer which we have spent together. I see it now ! 
I am awake, disenchanted, disenthralled ! Self, self, 
self! You have embodied yourself in a project. You 
are a better masque rader than the witches and gypsies 
yonder ; for your disguise is a self-deception. See 
whither it has brought you ! First, you aimed a death- 
blow, and a treacherous one, at this scheme of a purer 
and higher life, which so many noble spirits had wrought 
out. Then, because Coverdale could not be quite your 
slave, you threw him ruthlessly away. And you took 
me, too, into your plan, as long as there was hope of my 
being available, and now fling me aside again, a broken 
tool ! But, foremost and blackest of your sins, you 
stifled down your inmost consciousness ! — you did a 
deadly wrong to your own heart ! — you were ready to 
sacrifice this girl, whom, if God ever visibly showed a 
purpose, he put into your charge, and throi ighrw& ggi he 
"\a^s striving to redeem you I '^ "' 

" Thi sjs a w o man's view," sa id Hollingsworth, grow- 
ing deadly pale, — " a woman's, whose whole sphere of 
action is in the ilieart, ^and who can conce ive of no higher 
nor<v5dd;er,i}ne ! '^ - 

" Be silent ! " cried Zenobia, imperiously. " You 
know neither man nor woman ! The utmost that can 
be said in your behalf, — and because I would not be 
wholly despicable in my own eyes, but would fain 



THE THREE TOGETHER. 255 

excuse my wasted feelings, nor own it wholly a delu- 
sion, therefore I say it, — is, that a great and rich heart 
has been ruined in your breast. Leave me, now. You 
have done with me, and I with you. Farewell ! " 

" Priscilla," said Hollingsworth, " come." 

Zenobia smiled; possibly I did so too. Not often, 
in human life, has a gnawing sense of injury found 
a sweeter morsel of revenge than was conveyed in 
the tone with which Hollingsworth spoke those two 
words. It was the abased and tremulous tone of a man 
whose faith in himself was shaken, and who sought, at 
last, to lean on an affection. Yes ; the strong man 
bowed himself, and rested on this poor Priscilla ! O ! 
could she have failed him, what a triumph for the 
lookers-on ! 

And, at first, I half imagined that she was about to 
fail him. She rose up, stood shivering like the birch- 
leaves that trembled over her head, and then slowly 
tottered, rather than walked, towards Zenobia. Arriving 
at her feet, she sank down there, in the very same atti- 
tude which she had assumed on their first meeting, in 
the kitchen of the old farm-house. Zenobia remem- 
bered it. 

" Ah, Priscilla ! " said she, shaking her head, " how 
much is changed since then ! You kneel to a dethroned 
princess. You, the victorious one ! But he is waiting 
for you. Say what you wish, and leave me." 

" We are sisters ! " gasped Priscilla,- 

I iancied that I understood the word and action. It 
meant the offering of herself, and all she had, to be at 
Zenobia's disposal. Bat the latter would not take it 
thus. 



256 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" True, we are sisters !" she replied ; and, moved by 
the sweet word, she stooped down and kissed Priscilla ; 
but not lovingly, for a sense of fatal harm received 
through her seemed to be lurking m Zenobia's heart. 
" We had one father I -YouJmewjuLij^ ; I? 

/J3lit.ahttie while — else some^thin^s^that have chanced 
might have been spared you. But I never wished you 
harm. You stood Hbetween me and an end which I 
desired. 1 wanted a clear path. No matter what I 
meant. It is over now. Do you forgive me ? " 

*' O, Zenobia," sobbed Priscilla, " it is I that feel like 
the guilty one ! " 

" No, no, poor little thing !" said Zenobia, with a sort 
of contempt. " You have been my evil fate ; but there 
never was a babe with less strength or will to do an 
injury. Poor child ! Methinks you have but a melan- 
choly lot before you, sitting all alone in that wide, 
cheerless heart, where, for aught you know, — and as I, 
alas! believe, — the fire which you have kindled may 
soon go out. Ah, the thought makes me shiver for you ! 
What will you do, Priscilla, when you find no spark 
among the ashes ? " 

" Die ! " she answered. 

" That was well said ! " responded Zenobia, with an 
approving smile. " JCliereJs all a woman in j^our little 
compass, my poor sister. Meanwhile, go with him, and 
li^^!^"^^-- 

She waved her away, with a queenly gesture, and 
turned her own face to the rock. I watched Priscilla, 
wondering what judgment she would pass between 
Zenobia and Hollingsworth ; how interpret his behavior, 
so as to reconcile it with true faith both towards her 



THE THREE TOGETHER. 257 

sister and herself; how compel her love for him to keep 
any terms whatever with her sisterly affection ! But, in 
truth, there was no such difficulty as I imagined. Her 
engrossing love made it all clear. Hollingsworth could 
have no fault. That was the one principle at the centre 
of the universe. And the doubtful guilt or possible 
integrity of other people, appearances, self-evident facts, 
the testimony of her own senses, — even Hollingsworth's 
self-accusation, had he volunteered it, — would have 
weighed not the value of a mote of thistle-down on the 
other side. So secure was she of his right, that she 
never thought of comparing it with another's wrong, but 
left the latter to itself. 

Hollingsworth drew her arm within his, and soon dis- 
appeared with her among the trees. I cannot imagine 
how Zenobia knew when they were out of sight ; she 
never glanced again towards them. But, retaining a 
proud attitude so long as they might have thrown back 
a retiring look, they were no sooner departed, — utterly 
departed, — than she began slowly to sink down. It was 
as if a great, invisible, irresistible weight were pressing 
her to the earth. Settling upon her knees, she leaned 
her forehead against the rock, and sobbed convulsively ; 
dry sobs they seemed to be, such as have nothing to do 
with tears. 

17 



XXVI. 

ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE. 

Zenobta had entirely forgotten me. She fancied 
herself alone with her great grief. And had it been 
only a common pity that I felt for her, — the pity that 
her proud nature would have repelled, as the one worst 
wrong which the world yet held in reserve, — the sacred- 
ness and awfulness of the crisis might have impelled me 
to steal away silently, so that not a dry leaf should 
rustle under my feet. I would have left her to struggle, 
in that solitude, with only the eye of God upon her. 
But, so it happened, I never once dreamed of question- 
ing my right to be there now, as I had questioned it 
just before, when I came so suddenly upon Hollings- 
worth and herself, in the passion of their recent debate. 
It suits me not to explain what was the analogy that I 
saw, or imagined, between Zenobia's situation and mine; 
nor, I believe, will the reader detect this one secret, 
hidden beneath many a revelation which perhaps con- 
cerned me less. In simple truth, however, as Zenobia 
leaned her forehead against the rock, shaken with that 
tearless agony, it seemed to me that the self-same pang, 
with hardly mitigated torment, leaped thrilling from her 
heart-strings to my own. Was it wrong, therefore, if I 
felt myself consecrated to the priesthood by sympathy 
like this, and called upon to minister to this woman's 
affliction, so far as mortal could ? 



ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE. 259 

But, indeed, what could mortal do for her? Nothing! 
The attempt would be a mockery and an anguish. 
Time, it is true, would steal away her grief, and bury it 
and the best of her heart in the same grave. But Des- 
tiny itself, methought, in its kindliest mood, could do 
no better for Zenobia, in the way of quick relief, than to 
cause the impending rock to impend a little further, and 
fall upon her head. So I leaned against a tree, and 
listened to her sobs, in unbroken silencer^""She was half 
prostrate, halfTcneeling, with her forehead still pressed 
against the rock. Her sobs were the only sound ; she 
did not groan, nor give any other utterance to her dis- 
tress. It was all involuntary. 

At length, she sat up, put back her hair, and stared 
about her with a bewildered aspect, as if not distinctly 
recollecting the scene through which she had passed, 
nor cognizant of the situation in which it left her. Her 
face and brow were almost purple with the rush of blood. 
They whitened, however, by and by, and for some time 
retained this death-like hue. She put her hand to her 
forehead, with a gesture that made me forcibly conscious 
of an intense and living pain there. 

Her glance, wandering wildly to and fro, passed over 
me several times, without appearing to inform her of 
my presence. But, finally, a look of recognition 
gleamed from her eyes into mine. 

"Is it you, Miles Coverdale?" said she, smiling. 
"Ah, I perceive what you are about ! You are turning 
this whole affair into a ballad. Pray let me hear as 
many stanzas as you happen to have ready ! '* 

" O, hush, Zenobia !" I answered. " Heaven knows 
what an ache is in my soul IT 



260 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

" It is genuine tragedy, is it not ?" rejoined Zenobia, 
with a sharp, light laugh. " And you are willing to 
allow, perhaps, that I have had hard measure. B ut it is^ 
a woman's doom, and I have deserved it like a woman ; 



so let there be no pity, as, on my part, thereiHalrte no 
complaint. It is all right, now, or will shortly be so. 
But, Mr. Coverdale, by all means write this ballad, and 
put your soul's ache into it, and turn your sympathy to 
good account, as other poets do, and as poets must, 
unless they choose to give us glittering icicles instead of 
lines of fire. As for the moral, it shall be distilled into 
the final stanza, in a drop of bitter honey." 

"What shall it be, Zenobia?" I inquired, endeavor- 
ing to fall in with her mood. 

" O, a very old one will serve the purpose," she 
replied. " There are no new truths, much as we have 
prided ourselves on finding some. A moral ? Why, 
this : — that, in the battle-field of life, the downright 
stroke, that would fall only on a man's steel head-piece, 
is sure ^to~tlg'lit un a VTomanVjieart^^^iivnr whichlalxe 
wears ho l)reastplaTe,~a^^^ wh ose wis dom it is, there fore, 
to keep out of thje^cgn^ Or, this : — that the whole 
universe, her own sex and yours, and Providence, or 
Destiny, to boot, make common cause agai nst th e 
woman who swerves one hair's b readth out of the b eaten 
track. reS~7-Trndr add (for I may as well own it, now) 
that, with that one hair's breadth, she goes all astray, 
and never sees the world in its true aspect afterwards ! " 

" This last is too stern a moral," I observed. " Can- 
not we soften it a little ? " 

" Do it, if you like, at your own peril, not on my 
responsibility," she answered. Then, with a sudden 



ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE. 261 

change of subject, she went on : " After all, he has 
flung away what would have served him better than 
the poor, pale flower he kept. What can Priscilla do 
for him ? Put passionate warmth into his heart, when 
it shall be chilled with frozen hopes ? Strengthen his 
hands, when they are weary with much doing and no 
performance ? No ! but only tend towards him with a 
blind, instinctive love, and hang her little, puny weak- 
ness for a clog upon his arm ! She cannot even give 
him such sympathy as is worth the name. For will he 
never, in many an hour of darkness, need that proud 
intellectual sympathy which he might have had from 
me ? — the sympathy that would flash light along his 
course, and guide as well as cheer him ? Poor Hol- 
lingsworth ! Where will he find it now ? " 

" Hollingsworth has a heart of ice ! " said I, bitterly. 
" He is a wretch ! " 

" Do him no wrong," interrupted Zenobia, turning 
haughtily upon me. " Presume not to estimate a man 
like Hollingsworth. It was my fault, all along, and none 
of his. I see it now ! He never sought me. Why 
should he seek me ? What had I to ofler him ? A 
miserable, bruised and battered heart, spoilt long before 
he met me. A life, too, hopelessly entangled with a vil- ^ 
Iain's ! He did well to cast me off. God be praised, 
he did it ! And yet, had he trusted me, and borne 
with me a little longer, I would have saved him all this 
trouble." 

She was silent for a time, and stood with her eyes 
fixed on the ground. Again raising them, her look was^ 
more mild and calm. 

" Miles Coverdale ! " said she. 



/ 



262 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

" Well, Zenobia," I responded. " Can I do you any 
service ? " 

" Very little," she replied. *' But it is my purpose, as 
you may well imagine, to remove from Blithedale ; and, 
most likely, I may not see Hollingsworth again. A 
woman in my position, you understand, feels scarcely at 
her ease among former friends. New faces — unaccus- 
tomed looks — those only can she tolerate. She would 
pine among familiar scenes ; she would be apt to blush, 
too, under the eyes that knew her secret ; her heart might 
throb uncomfortably; she would mortify herself, I sup- 
pose, with foolish notions of having sacrificed the honor 
of her sex at the fo^Ljof., proud, ^ contumacious man. 
Poor 3:QmajihSQd^_with_Jts rights and Wrongs ! Here 
will be new matter for my course of lecluresT'af^the idea 
of which you smiled, Mr. Coverdale, a month or two 
ago. But, as you have really a heart and sympathies, 
as far as they go, and as I shall depart without seeing 
Rollings worth, I must entreat you to be a messenger 
between him and me." 

" Willingly," said I, wondering at the strange way in 
which her mind seemed to vibrate from the deepest ear- 
nest to mere levity. " What is the message ? " 

" True, — what is it ? " exclaimed Zenobia. " After 
all, I hardly know. On better consideration, I have no 
message. Tell him, — tell him something pretty and 
pathetic, that will come nicely and sweetly into your 
ballad, — anything you please, so it be tender and 
submissive enough. Tell him he has murdered me ! 
Tell him. that I '11 haunt him ! " — she spoke these 
words with the wildest energy. — '' And give him — no, 
give Priscilla — this ! " 



ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE. 263 

Thus saying, she took the jewelled flower^j^ttUof her 
hair; and it struck me as the act^oT'a queen, when 
worsted in a combat, discrowning herself, as if she found 
a sort of relief in aBasihg aH her pride. 

" Bid her wear this for Zenobia^s sake," she continued. 
" She is a pretty little creature, and will make as soft 
and gentle a wife as the veriest Bluebeard could desire. 
Pity that she must fade so soon ! These delicate and 
puny maidens always do. Ten years hence, let Hol- 
lingsworth look at my face and Priscilla's, and then f 
choose betwixt them. Or, if he pleases, let him do it J 
now." 

How magnificently Zenobia looked, as she said this! 
The effect of he]ri5MTrfy~wa¥ "even heightened hy the 
over-consciousness and self-recognition of it, into which, 
I suppose. Rollings worth's scorn had driven her. She 
understood the look of admiration in my face ; and — 
Zenobia to the last — it gave her ^pleasure. 

*' It is an endless pity," said she, " that I had not 
bethought m.yself of winning your heart, Mr. Coverdale, 
instead of Hollings worth's. I think I should have suc- 
ceeded ; and many women would have deemed you the 
worthier conquest of the two. You are certainly much 
the handsomest man. But there is a fate in these 
things. And beauty, in a man, has been of little 
account with me, since my earliest girlhood, when, for 
once, it turned my head. Now, farewell ! " 

" Zenobia, whither are you going? " I asked. 

" No matter where," said she. " But I am weary of , 
this place, and sick to death of playing at... philanthrqp;^ / 
auijrogress. Of all varices of mock-Life* we have V 
surely blundered into the very emptiest mockery, in our | 



264 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

effort to establish the one true system. I have done 
with it ; and Blithedale must find another woman to 
superintend the laundry, and you, Mr. Coverdale, 
another nurse to make your gruel, the next time you fall 
ill. It was, indeed, a foolish dream ! Yet it gave us 
some pleasant summer days, and bright hopes, while 
they lasted. It can do no more ; nor will it avail us to 
shed tears over a broken bubble. Here is my hand ! 
Adieu ! '^ 

She gave me her hand, with the same free, whole- 
souled gesture as on the first afternoon of our acquaint- 
ance ; and, being greatly moved, I bethought me of no 
better method of expressing my deep s}Tiipathy than to 
carry it to my lips. In so doing, I perceived that this 
white hand — so hospitably warm when I first touched 
it, five months since — was now cold as a veritable piece 
of snow. 

" How very cold ! ^' I exclaimed, holding it between 
both my own, with the vain idea of warming it. " What 
can be the reason ? It is really death-like ! " 

" The extremities die first, they say," answered Zeno- 
bia, laughing. " And so you kiss this poor, despised, 
rejected hand ! Well, my dear friend, I thank you. You 
have reserved your homage for the fallen. Lip of man 
will never touch my hand again. I [ntRTifl to hprnrpp d_ 
Catholic, for the sak e of going in to ?^ nunner]?:. When 
you next hear of Zenobia, her face will be behind the 
black veil ; so look your last at it now — for all is over ! 
Once more, farewell ! " 

She withdrew her hand, yet left a lingering pressure, 
which I felt long afterwards. So intimately connected 
as I had been with perhaps the only man in whom she 



\ 



ZENOBIA AND COVERDALE. 265 



was ever truly interested, Zenobia looked on me as the 
representative of all the past, and was conscious that, in 
bidding me adieu, she likewise took final leave of Hol- 
lingsworth, and of this whole epoch of her life. Never 
did her beauty shine out more lustrously than in the 
last glimpse that I had of her. She departed, and was 
soon hidden among the trees. 

But, whether it was the strong impression of the fore- 
going scene, or whatever else the cause, I was affected 
with a fantasy that Zenobia had not actually gone, but 
was still hovering about the spot and haunting it. I 
seemed to feel her eyes upon me. It was as if the vivid 
coloring of her character had left a brilliant stain upon 
the air. By degrees, however, the impression grew less 
distinct. I flung myself upon the fallen leaves at the 
base of Eliot's pulpit. The sunshine withdrew up the 
tree-trunks, and flickered on the topmost boughs ; gray 
twilight made the wood obscure ; the stars brightened 
out ; the pendent boughs became wet with chill autumnal 
dews. But I was listless, worn out with emotion on my 
own behalf and sympathy for others, and had no heart 
to leave my comfortless lair beneath the rock. 

I must have fallen asleep, and had a dream, all the 
circumstances of which utterly vanished at the moment 
when they converged to some tragical catastrophe, and 
thus grew too powerful for the thin sphere of slumber that 
enveloped them. Starting from the ground, I found the 
risen moon shining upon the rugged face of the rock, 
and myself all in a tremble. 



XXVII. 

MIDNIGHT. 

It could not have been far from midnight when I 
came beneath Hollingsworth's window, and, finding it 
open, flung in a tuft of grass with earth at the roots, and 
heard it fall upon the floor. He was either awake or 
sleeping very lightly ; for scarcely a moment had gone 
by, before he looked out, and discerned me standing in 
the moonlight. 

" Is it you, Coverdale ? " he asked. " What is the 
matter ? " 

" Come down to me, Hollingsworth ! " I answered. 
" I am anxious to speak with you." 

The strange tone of my own voice startled me, and 
him, probably, no less. He lost no time, and soon issued 
from the house-door, with his dress half arranged. 

" Again, what is the matter ? " he asked, impatiently. 

" Have you seen Zenobia," said I, " since you parted 
from her, at Eliot's pulpit ? " 

" No," answered Hollingsworth ; " nor did I expect 
it." 

His voice was deep, but had a tremor in it. Hardly 
had he spoken, when Silas Foster thrust his head, done 
up in a cotton handkerchief, out of another window, and 
took what he called — as it literally was — a squint at 
us. 

" Well, folks, what are ye about here ? "he demanded. 



MIDNIGHT. ' 267 

"Aha! are you there, Miles Coverdale ? You have 
been turning night into day, since you left us, I reckon ; 
and so you find it quite natural to come prowling about 
the house at this time o' night, frightening my old 
woman out of her wits, and making her disturb a tired 
man out of his best nap. In with you, you vagabond, 
and to bed ! " 

" Dress yourself quietly, Foster," said I. " We want 
your assistance." 

I could not, for the life of me, keep that strange tone 
out of my voice. Silas Foster, obtuse as were his sensi- 
bilities, seemed to feel the ghastly earnestness that was 
con V- eyed in it as well as Hollingsworth did. He 
immediately withdrew his head, and I heard him yawn- 
ing, muttering to his wife, and again yawning heavily, 
while he hurried, on his clothes. Meanw^hile, I showed 
HollincTsworth^a delicate handkerchieTrmarke3"^\vith a 



well-known cipher, and told^vhere t had found it, and 
other circumstances, which had filled me with a suspicion 
so terrible that I left him, if he dared, to shape it out for 
himself. By the time my brief explanation was finished, 
we were joined by Silas Foster, in his blue woollen 
frock. 

" Well, boys," cried he, peevishly, " what is to pay 
now ? " 

'Tell him, Hollingsworth," said I. 

Hollingsworth shivered, perceptibly, and drew in a 
hard breath betwixt his teeth. He steadied himself, 
however, and, looking the matter more firmly in the 
face than I had done, explained to Foster my suspicions, 
and the grounds of them, with a distinctness from which, 
in spite of my utmost efforts, my words had swerved 



J 



268 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

aside. The tough-nerved yeoman, in his comment, put 
a finish on the business, and brought out the hideous 
idea in its full terror, as if he were removing the napkin 
from the face of a corpse. 

"And so you think she's drowned herself?" he cried. 

I turned away my face. 

" What on earth should the young woman do that 
for ? " exclaimed Silas, his eyes half out of his head with 
mere surprise. " Why, she has more means than she 
can use or waste, and lacks nothing to make her com- 
fortable, but a husband, and that's an article she could 
have, any day. There 's some mistake about this, I tell 
you ! " 

" Come," said I, shuddering; "let us go and ascertain 
the truth." 

" Well, well," answered Silas Foster; "just as you 
say. We '11 take the long pole, with the hook at the 
end, that serves to get the bucket out of the draw-well, 
when the rope is broken. With that, and a couple of 
long-handled hay-rakes, I '11 answer for finding her, if 
she 's anywhere to be found. Strange enough ! Zenobia 
drown herself ! No, no ; I don't believe it. She had 
too much sense, and too much means, and enjoyed life a 
great deal too well." 

When our few preparations were completed, we 
hastened, by a shorter than the customary route, through 
fields and pastures, and across a portion of the meadow, 
to the particular spot on the river-bank which I had 
paused to contemplate in the course of my afternoon's 
ramble. A nameless presentiment had again drawn me 
thither, after leaving Eliot's pulpit. I showed my com- 
panions where I had found the handkerchief, and pointed 



MIDNIGHT. 269 

to two or three footsteps, impressed into the clayey mar- 
gin, and tending towards the water. Beneath its shal- 
low verge, among the water-weeds, there were further 
traces, as yet unobliterated by the sluggish current, 
which was there almost at a stand-still. Silas Foster 
thrust his face dow^n close to these footsteps, and picked 
up a shoe that had escaped my observation, being half 
imbedded in the mud. 

" There 's a kid shoe that never was made on a Yan- 
kee last," observed he. " I know enough of shoemaker's 
craft to tell that. French manufacture ; and, see what a 
high instep ! and how evenly she trod in it ! There 
never was a woman that stept handsomer in her shoes 
than Zenobia did. Here," he added, addressing Hol- 
lingsworth ; "would you like to keep the shoe ? " 

Hollingsworth started back. 

" Give it to me, Foster," said I. 

I dabbled it in the water, to rinse off the mud, and 
have kept it ever since. Not far from this spot lay an 
old, leaky punt, drawn up on the oozy river-side, and 
generally half full of water. It served the angler to go 
in quest of pickerel, or the sportsman to pick up his wild 
ducks. Setting this crazy bark afloat, I seated myself 
in the stern with the paddle, while Hollingsworth sat in 
the bows with the hooked pole, and Silas Foster amid- 
ships with a hay-rake. 

"It puts me in mind of my young days," remarked 
Silas, " when I used to steal out of bed to go bobbing for 
horn-pouts and eels. Heigh-ho I — well, life and death 
together make sad work for us all ! Then I was a boy, 
bobbing for fish ; and now I am getting to be an old fel- 
low, and here I be, groping for a dead body ! I tell you 



270 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

what, lads, if I thought anything had really happened to 
Zenobia, I should feel kind o' sorrowful." 

" I wish, at least, you would hold your tongue," mut- 
tered I. 

The moon, that night, though past the full, was still 
large and oval, and having risen between eight and nine 
o'clock, now shone aslantwise over the river, throwing 
the high, opposite bank, with its woods, into deep 
shadow, but lighting up the hither shore pretty effectu- 
ally. Not a ray appeared to fall on the river itself. It 
lapsed imperceptibly away, a broad, black, inscrutable 
depth, keeping its own secrets from the eye of man, as 
impenetrably as mid-ocean could. 

" Well, Miles Coverdale," said Foster, " you are the 
helmsman. How do you mean to manage this busi- 
ness ? " 

" I shall let the boat drift, broadside foremost, past 
that stump," I replied. " I know the bottom, having 
sounded it in fishing. The shore, on this side, after the 
first step or two, goes off" very abruptly ; and there is a 
pool, just by the stump, twelve or fifteen feet deep. 
The current could not have force enough to sweep any 
sunken object, even if partially buoyant, out of that hol- 
low." 

" Come, then," said Silas ; " but I doubt whether 1 
can touch bottom with this hay-rake, if it 's as deep as 
you say. Mr. Hollingsworth, I think you'll be the 
lucky man to-night, such luck as it is." 

We floated past the stump. Silas Foster plied his 
rake manfully, poking it as far as he could into the 
water, and immersing the whole length of his arm 
besides. Hollingsworth at first sat motionless, with the 



MIDNIGHT. 271 

hooked pole elevated in the air. But, by and by, with a 
nervous and jerky movement, he began to plunge it into 
the blackness that upbore us, setting his teeth, and mak- 
ing precisely such thrusts, methought, as if he were 
stabbing at a deadly enemy. I bent over the side of the 
boat. So obscure, however, so awfully mysterious, was 
that dark stream, that — and the thought made me 
shiver like a leaf — I might as well have tried to look 
into the enigma of the eternal world, to discover what 
had become of Zenobia's soul, as into the river's depths, 
to find her body. And there, perhaps, she lay, with her 
face upward, while the shadow of the boat, and my 
own pale face peering downward, passed slowly betwixt 
her and the sky ! 

Once, twice, thrice, I paddled the boat up stream, and 
again suffered it to glide, with the river's slow, funereal 
motion, downward. Silas Foster had raked up a large 
mass of stuff, which, as it came towards the surface, 
looked somewhat like a flowing garment, but proved to 
be a monstrous tuft of water- weeds. Rollings worth, 
with a gigantic effort, upheaved a sunken log. When 
once free of the bottom, it rose partly out of water, — all 
weedy and slimy, a devilish-looking object, which the 
moon had not shone upon for half a hundred years, — 
then plunged again, and sullenly returned to its old 
resting-place, for the remnant of the century. 

" That looked ugly ! " quoth Silas. " I half thought 
it was the evil one, on the same errand as ourselves, — 
searching for Zenobia." 

" He shall never get her," said I, giving the boat a 
strong impulse. 

'' That 's rot for you to say, my boy," retorted the 



272 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

yeoman. " Pray God he never has, and never may ! 
Slow work this, however! I should really be glad to 
find something ! Pshaw ! What a notion that is, when 
the only good luck would be to paddle, and drift, and 
poke, and grope, hereabouts, till morning, and have our 
labor for our pains ! For my part, I should n't wonder 
if the creature had only lost her shoe in the mud, and 
saved her soul alive, after all. My stars ! how she will 
laugh at us, to-morrow morning ! " 

It is indescribable w^hat an image of Zenobia — at the 
breakfast-table, full of warm and mirthful life — this sur- 
mise of Silas Foster's brought before my mind. The 
terrible phantasm of her death was thrown by it into the 
remotest and dimmest back-ground, where it seemed to 
grow as improbable as a myth. 

"Yes, Silas, it may be as you say," cried I. 

The drift of the stream had again borne us a lit- 
tle below the stump, when I felt, — yes, felt, for it 
was as if the iron hook had smote my breast, — felt 
Hollingsw^orth's pole strike some object at the bottom 
of the river ! He started up, and almost overset the 
boat. 

" Hold on ! " cried Foster ; " you have her ! " 

Putting a fury of strength into the effort, Hollings- 
worth heaved amain, and up came a white swash to 
the surface of the river. It was the flow of a woman's 
garments. A little higher, and we saw her dark hair 
streaming down the current. Black River of Death, 
thou hadst yielded up thy victim ! Zenobia was found ! 

Silas Foster laid hold of the body; Hollings worth, 
likewise, grappled with it; and I steered towards the 
bank, gazing all the while at Zenobia, whose limbs were 



MIDNIGHT. 273 

swaying in the current close at the boat's side. Arriv- 
ing near the shore, we all three stept into the water, 
bore her out, and laid her on the ground beneath a 
tree. 

" Poor child ! " said Foster, — and his dry old heart, 
I verily believe, vouchsafed a tear, — " I 'm sorry for 
her ! " 

Were I to describe the perfect horror of the spectacle, 
the reader might justly reckon it to me for a sin and 
shame. For more than twelve long years I have borne 
it in my memory, and could now reproduce it as freshly 
as if it were still before my eves^ ^ Of ^ all modes of 
death, methinks it is the ugliest. T Her wet garments 
swathed limbs of terrible inflexibility. She was the 
marble image of a death-agony. Her arms had grown 
rigid in the act of struggling, and were bent before her 
with clenched hands; her knees, too, were bent, and — 
thank God for it ! — in the attitude of prayer. Ah, that 
rigidity ! It is impossible to bear the terror of it. It 
seemed, — I must needs impart so much of my own mis- 
erable idea, — it seemed as if her body must keep the 
same position in the coffin, and that her skeleton would 
keep it in the grave ; and that v»rhen Zenobia rose at the 
day of judgment, it would be in just the same attitude 
as now ! 

One hope I had ; and that, too, was mingled half with 
fear. She knelt, as if in prayer. With the last, chok- 
ing consciousness, her soul, bubbling out through her 
lips, it may be, had given itself up to the Father, recon- 
ciled and penitent. But her arms ! They were bent 
before her, as if she struggled against Providence in 
18 



274 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

never-ending hostility. Her hands ! They were clenched 
in immitigable defiance.j Away with the hideous thought! 
The flitting momenrtTafter Zenobia sank into the dark 
pool — when her breath was gone, and her soul at her 
lips — was as long, in its capacity of God's infinite for- 
giveness, as the lifetime of the world ! 

Foster bent over the body, and carefully examined it. 

" You have wounded the poor thing's breast," said he 
to Hollingsworth ; " close by her heart, too ! " 

" Ha ! " cried Hollingsworth, with a start. 

And so he had, indeed, both before and after death ! 

** See ! " said Foster. " That 's the place where the 
iron struck her. It looks cruelly, but she never felt 
it!" 

He endeavored to arrange the arms of the corpse 
decently by its side. His utmost strength, however, 
scarcely sufficed to bring them down ; and rising again, 
the next instant, they bade him defiance, exactly as 
before. He made another effort, with the same result. 

" In God's name, Silas Foster," cried I, with bitter 
indignation, "let that dead woman alone ! " 

"Why, man, it 's not decent ! " answered he, staring 
at me in amazement. " I can't bear to see her looking 
so ! Well, well," added he, after a third effort, " 't is of 
no use, sure enough ; and we must leave the women to 
do their best with her, after we get to the house. The 
sooner that's done, the better." 

We took two rails from a neighboring fence, and 
formed a bier by laying across some boards from the bot- 
tom of the boat. And thus we bore Zenobia home- 
ward. Six hours before, how beautiful ! At midnight, 
what a horror! A reflection occurs to me that will 



IMIDNIGHT. 275 

show ludicrously, I doubt not, on my page, but must 
come in, for its sterling truth. Being the woman that 
she was, could Zenobia have foreseen all these ugly cir- 
cumstances of death, — how ill it would become her, the 
altogether unseemly aspect which she must put on, and 
especially old Silas Foster's efforts to improve the mat- 
ter, — she would no more have committed the dreadful 
act than have exhibited herself to a public assembly in a 
badly-fitting garment ! Zenobia, I have often thought, 
was not quite simple in her death. She had seen pic- 
tures, I suppose, of drowned persons in lithe and grace- 
ful attitudes. And she deemed it well and decorous to 
die as so many village maidens have, wronged in their 
first love, and seeking peace in the bosom of the old, 
familiar stream, — so familiar that they could not dread 
it, — where, in childhood, they used to bathe their little 
feet, wading mid-leg deep, unmindful of wet skirts. But 
in Zenobia's case there was some tint of the Arcadian 
affectation that had been visible enough in all our lives, 
for a few months past. 

This, however, to my conception, takes nothing from 
the tragedy. For, has not the world come to an awfully 
sophisticated pass, when, after a certain degree of ac- 
quaintance with it, we cannot even put ourselves to 
death in whole-hearted simplicity ? 

Slowly, slow.y, with many a dreary pause, — resting 
the bier often on some rock, or balancing it across a 
mossy log, to take fresh hold, — we bore our burthen 
onward through the moonlight, and at last laid Zenobia 
on the floor of the old farm-house. By and by came 
three or four withered women, and stood whispering 
around the corpse, peering at it through their spectacles, 



276 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

holding up their skinny hands, shaking their night-capt 
heads, and taking counsel of one another's experience 
what was to be done. 

With those tire-women we left Zenobia ! 



XXVIII. 

BLITHEDALE PASTURE. 

Blithedale, thus far in its progress, had never found 
the necessity of a burial-ground. There was some con- 
sultation among us in what spot Zenobia might most 
fitly be laid. It was my own wish that she should sleep 
at the base of Eliot's pulpit, and that on the rugged 
front of the rock the name by which we familiarly knew 
her, — Zenobia, — and not another word, should be 
deeply cut, and left for the moss and lichens to fill up at 
their long leisure. But Hollingsworth (to whose ideas 
on this point great deference was due) made it his request 
that her grave might be dug on the gently sloping hill- 
side, in the wide pasture, where, as we once supposed, 
Zenobia and he had planned to build their cottage. And 
thus it was done, accordingly. 

She was buried very much as other people have been 
for hundreds of years gone by. In anticipation of a 
death, we Blithedale colonists had sometimes set our 
fancies at work to arrange a funereal ceremony, which 
should be the proper symbolic expression of our spiritual 
faith and eternal hopes ; and this we meant to substi- 
tute for those customary rites which were moulded orig- 
inally out of the Gothic gloom, and by long use, like an 
old velvet pall, have so much more than their first death- 
smell in them. But when the occasion came, we found 
it the simplest and truest thing, after all, to content our- 



278 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

selves with the old fashion, taking away what we could, 
but interpolating no novelties, and particularly avoiding 
all frippery of flowers and cheerful emblems. The pro- 
cession moved from the farm-house. Nearest the dead 
walked an old man in deep mourning, his face mostly 
concealed in a w^hite handkerchief, and with Priscilla 
leaning on his arm. HoUingsw^orth and myself came 
next. We all stood around the narrow niche in the cold 
earth ; all saw the coffin lowered in ; all heard the rattle 
of the crumbly soil upon its lid, — that final sound, which 
mortality awakens on the utmost verge of sense, as if in 
the vain hope of bringing an echo from the spiritual 
world. 

I noticed a stranger, — a stranger to most of those 
present, though known to me, — who, after the coffin 
had descended, took up a handful of earth, and flung it 
first into the grave. I had given up Hollings worth's 
arm, and now found myself near this man. 

"It was an idle thing — a foolish thing — for Zeno- 
bia to do," said he. " She was the last woman in the 
w^orld to whom death could have been necessary. It w^as 
too absurd ! I have no patience with her." 

" Why so ? " I inquired, smothering my horror at his 
cold comment in my eager curiosity to discover some 
tangible truth as to his relation with Zenobia. " If any 
crisis could justify the sad wrong she offered to herself, 
it was surely that in which she stood. Everything had 
failed her; — prosperity in the world's sense, for her 
opulence was gone, — the heart's prosperity, in love. 
And there was a secret burthen on her, the nature of 
which is best known to you. Young as she w^as, she 
had tried life fuUy, had no more to hope, and something, 



BLITHEDALE PASTURE. 279 

perhaps, to fear. Had Providence taken her away in its 
own holy hand, I should have thought it the kindest 
dispensation that could be awarded to one so wrecked." 

" You mistake the matter completely," rejoined West- 
ervelt. 

*' What, then, is your own view of it ? " I asked. 

** Her mind was active, and various in its powers," 
said he. " Her heart had a manifold adaptation ; her 
constitution an infinite buoyancy, which (had she pos- 
sessed only a little patience to await the reflux of her 
troubles) would have borne her upward, triumphantly, 
for twenty years to come. Her beauty would not have 
waned — or scarcely so, and surely not beyond the reach 
of art to restore it — in all that time. She had life's 
summer all before her, and a hundred varieties of bril- 
liant success. What an actress Zenobia might have 
been ! It was one of her least valuable capabilities. 
How forcibly she might have wrought upon the world, 
either directly in her own person, or by her influence 
upon some man, or a series of men, of controlling gen- 
ius ! Every prize that could be worth a woman's hav- 
ing — and many prizes which other women are too 
timid to desire — lay wdthin Zenobia's reach." 

" In all this," I observed, " there would have been 
nothing to satisfy her heart." 

" Her heart ! " answered Westervelt, contemptuously. 
" That troublesome organ (as she had hitherto found it) 
would have been kept in its due place and degree, and 
have had all the gratification it could fairly claim. She 
would soon have established a control over it. Love 
had failed her, you say ! Had it never failed her be- 
fore ? Yet she survived it, and loved again, — possibly 



280 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

not once alone, nor twice either. And now to drown 
herself for yonder dreamy philanthropist ! '' 

"Who are you," I exclaimed, indignantly, "that dare 
to speak thus of the dead ? You seem to intend a 
eulogy, yet leave out whatever was noblest in her, and 
blacken while you mean to praise. I have long consid- 
ered you as Zenobia's evil fate. Your sentiments con- 
firm me in the idea, but leave me still ignorant as to the 
mode in which you have influenced her life. The con- 
nection may have been indissoluble, except by death. 
Then, indeed, — always in the hope of God's infinite 
mercy, — I cannot deem it a misfortune that she sleeps 
in yonder grave ! " 

" No matter what I was to her," he answered, gloom- 
ily, yet without actual emotion. " She is now beyond 
my reach. Had she lived, and hearkened to my coun- 
sels, we might have served each other well. But there 
Zenobia lies in yonder pit, with the dull earth over her. 
Twenty years of a brilliant lifetime thrown away forjL^ 
. mere wo manj whimij^ 

Heaven deal with Westervelt according to his nature 
and deserts! — that is to say, annihilate him. He was 
altogether earthy, worldly, made for time and its gross 
objects, and incapable — except by a sort of dim reflec- 
tion caught from other minds — of so much as one spir- 
itual idea. Whatever stain Zenobia had was caught 
from him ; nor does it seldom happen that a character 
of admirable qualities loses its better life because the 
atmosphere that should sustain it is rendered poisonous 
by such breath as this man mingled with Zenobia's. 
Yet his reflections possessed their share of truth. It 
was a woful thought, that a woman of Zenobia's diver- 



BLITHE DALE PASTURE. 2S1 

sified capacity should have fancied herself irretrievably- 
defeated on the broad battle-field of life, and with no 
refuge, save to fall on her own sword, merely because 
Love had gone against her. It is nonsense, and a 
miserable wrong, — the result, like so many others, of 
masculine egotism, — that the success or failure of 
/woman's existence should be made to depend wholly on 
the affections, and on one species of affection, while 
man has such a multitude of other chances, that this 
seems but an incident. For its own sake, if it will do 
no more, the world should throw open all its avenues to 
the passport of a woman's bleeding heart. 

As we stood around the grave, I looked often towards 
Priscilla, dreading to see her wholly overcome with 
grief. And deeply grieved, in truth, she was. But a 
character so simply constituted as hers has room only 
for a single predominant affection. No other feeling 
can touch the heart's inmost core, nor do it any deadly 
mischief. Thus, while we see that such a being responds 
to every breeze with tremulous vibration, and imagine 
that she must be shattered by the first rude blast, we 
find her retaining her equilibrium amid shocks that 
might have overthrown many a sturdier frame. So 
with Priscilla ; — her one possible misfortune was Hol- 
lingsworth's unkindness ; and that was destined never to 
befall her, — never yet, at least, — for Priscilla has not 
died. 

But Hollingsworth ! After all the evil that he did, 
are we to leave him thus, blest with the entire devotion 
of this one true heart, and with wealth at his disposal, 
to execute the long-contemplated project that had led 
him so far astray? What retribution is there here? 



282 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

My mind being vexed with precisely this query, I made 
a journey, some years since, for the sole purpose of 
catching a last glimpse at Hollingsworth, and judging 
for myself whether he Vv^ere a happy man or no. I 
learned that he inhabited a small cottage, that his way 
of life was exceedingly retired, and that my only chance 
of encountering him or Priscilla was to meet them in a 
secluded lane, where, in the latter part of the afternoon, 
they were accustomed to walk. I did meet them, ac- 
cordingly. As they approached me, I observed in Hol- 
lingsworth's face a depressed and melancholy look, that 
seemed habitual ; — the powerfully-built man showed 
a self-distrustful weakness, and a childlike or childish 
tendency to press close, and closer still, to the side of the 
slender woman whose arm was within his. In Priscilla's 
manner there was a protective and watchful quality, as 
if she felt herself the guardian of her companion ; but, 
likewise, a deep, submissive, unquestioning reverence, 
and also a veiled happiness in her fair and quiet counte- 
nance. 

Drawing nearer, Priscilla recognized me, and gave 
me a kind and friendly smile, but with a slight gesture, 
which I could not help interpreting as an entreaty not to 
make myself known to Hollingsworth. Nevertheless, 
an impulse took possession of me, and compelled me to 
address him. 

** I have come, Hollingsworth," said I, " to view your 
grand edifice for the reformation of criminals. Is it 
finished yet ? " 

" No, nor begun," answered he, without raising his 
eyes. " A very small one answers all my purposes." 

Priscilla threw me an upbraiding glance. But I 



BLITHE DALE PASTURE. 283 

spoke again, with a bitter and revengeful emotion, as if 
flinging a poisoned arrow at Hollingsworth's heart. 

*' Up to this moment," I inquired, " how many crimi- 
nals have you reformed ? " 

" Not one," said Hollingsworth, with his eyes still 
fixed on the ground. "Ever since we parted, I have 
been busy with a single murderer." 

Then the tears gushed into my eyes, and I forgave 
him ; for I remembered the wild energy, the passionate 
shriek, with which Zenobia had spoken those words, — 
" Tell him he has murdered me ! Tell him that I '11 
haunt him ! " — and I knew what murderer he meant, 
and whose vindictive shadow dogged the side where 
Prise ilia was not. 

The moral which presents itself to my reflections, as 
drawn from Hollingsworth's character and errors, is 
simply this, — that, admitting what is called philan- 
thropy, when adopted as a profession, to be often useful 
by its energetic impulse to society at large, it is perilous 
to the individual whose ruling passion, in one exclusive 
channel, it thus becomes. It ruins, or is fearfully apt to 
ruin, the heart, the rich juices of which God never 
meant should be pressed violently out, and distilled into 
alcoholic liquor, by an unnatural process, but should 
render life sweet, bland, and gently beneficent, and 
insensibly influence other hearts and other lives to the 
same blessed end. I see in Hollingsworth an exemplifi- 
cation of the most awful truth in Bunyan's book of such ; 
— from the very gate of heaven there is a by-way to 
the pit I 

But, all this while, we have been standing by Zenobia's 
grave. I have never since beheld it, but make no ques- 



2S4 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

tion that the grass grew all the better, on that little 
parallelogram of pasture-land, for the decay of the beau- 
tiful woman who slept beneath. How much Nature seems 
to love us ! And how readily, nevertheless, without a sigh 
or a complaint, she converts us to a meaner purpose, when 
her highest one — that of conscious intellectual life and 
sensibility — has been untimely balked ! While Ze- 
nobia lived. Nature was proud of her, and directed all 
eyes upon that radiant presence, as her fairest handi- 
work. Zenobia perished. Will not Nature shed a 
tear ? Ah, no ! — she adopts the calamity at once into 
her system, and is just as well pleased, for aught we 
can see, with the tuft of ranker vegetation that grew out 
of Zenobia's heart, as with all the beauty which has 
bequeathed us no earthly representative except in this 
crop of weeds. It is because the spirit is inestimable 
that the lifeless body is so little valued. 



XXIX. 

MILES COVERDALE'S CONFESSION. 

It remains only to say a few words about myself. 
Not improbably, the reader might be willing to spare me 
the trouble ; for I have made but a poor and dim figure in 
my own narrative, establishing no separate interest, and 
suffering my colorless life to take its hue from other 
lives. But one still retains some little consideration for 
one's self; so I keep these last two or three pages for 
my individual and sole behoof. 

But what, after all, have I to tell ? Nothing, nothing, 
nothinof ! I left Blithedale within the week after Zeno- 
bia's death, and went back thither no more. The whole 
soil of our farm, for a long time afterwards, seemed but 
the sodded earth over her grave. I could not toil 
there, nor live upon its products. Often, however, in 
these years that are darkening around me,|I remember 
our beautiful scheme of a noble and unselfish life ; and 
how fair, in that first summer, appeared the prospect 
that it might endure for generations, and be perfected, as 
the ages rolled away, into the system of a people and a m 
woirld ! /Were my former associates now there, — were 
there oruy three or four of those true-hearted men still 
laboring in the sun, — I sometimes fancy that I should 
direct my world-weary footsteps thitherward, and entreat 



\. 



286 THE BLITHE DALE ROMANCE. 

them to receive me, for old friendship's sake. More and 
more I feel that we had struck upon what ought to be a 
truth. Posterity may dig it up, and profit by it. ' The 
experiment, so far as its original projectors were con- 
cerned, proved, long ago, a failure ; first lapsing into 
Fourierism, and dying, as it well deserved, for this infi- 
delity to its own higher spirit. Where once we toiled 
with our whole hopeful hearts, the town-paupers, aged, 
nerveless, and disconsolate, creep sluggishly a-field. 
Alas, what faith is requisite to bear up against such 
results of generous effort ! 

My subsequent life has passed, — I was going to say 
happily, — but, at all events, tolerably enough. I am 
now at middle age, — well, well, a step or two beyond 
the midmost point, and I care not a fig who knows it ! — 
a bachelor, with no very decided purpose of ever being 
otherwise. I have been twice to Europe, and spent a 
year or two rather agreeably at each visit. Being well 
to do in the world, and having nobody but myself to care 
for, I live very much at my ease, and fare sumptuously 
every day. As for poetry, I have given it up, notwith- 
standing that Doctor Griswold — as the reader, of course, 
knows — has placed me at a fair elevation among our 
minor minstrelsy, on the strength of my pretty little vol- 
ume, published ten years ago. As regards human pro- 
gress (in spite of my irrepressible yearnings over the 
Blithedale reminiscences), let them believe in it who can, 
and aid in it who choose. If I could earnestly do either, 
it might be all the better for my comfort. As Hollings- 
worth once told me, I lack a pu rpose, How strange! 
He was ruined, morally, by an overplus of the very sam e 
ingredient, the want of which, I occasionally suspect, has 



MILES COVERDALE's CONFESSION. 287 

rendered_mY own life all an emptiness.^ I by no means 
wish to die. Yet, were there any cause, in this whole 
chaos of human struggle, worth a sane man's dying for, 
and which my death would benefit, then — provided, 
however, the effort did not involve an unreasonable 
amount of trouble — methinks I might be bold to offer 
up my life. If Kossuth, for example, would pitch the 
battle-field of Hungarian rights within an easy ride of 
my abode, and choose a mild, sunny morning, after 
breakfast, for the conflict. Miles Coverdale would gladly 
be his man, for one brave rush upon the levelled bayo- 
nets. Further than that, I should be loth to pledge 
myself. 

I exaggerate my own defects. The reader must 
not take my own word for it, nor believe me alto- 
gether changed from the young man who once hoped 
strenuously, and struggled not so much amiss. Frost- 
ier heads than mine have gained honor in the world ; 
frostier hearts have imbibed new warmth, and been 
newly happy. Life, however, it must be o\ATied, has 
come to rather an idle pass with me. Would my 
friends like to know what brought it thither ? There is 
one secret, — I have concealed it all along, and never 
meant to let the least whisper of it escape, — one foolish 
little secret, which possibly may have had something to 
do with these inactive years of meridian manhood, with 
my bachelorship, with the unsatisfied retrospect that I 
fling back on life, and my listless glance towards the 
future. Shall I reveal it ? It is an absurd thing for a 
man in his afternoon, — a man of the world, moreover, 
with these three white hairs in bis brown mustache, 
and that deepening track of a crow's-foot on each temple, 



288 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 

— an absurd thing ever to have happened, and quite the 
absurdest for an old bachelor, like me, to talk about. 
But it rises in my throat ; so let it come. 

I perceive, moreover, that the confession, brief as it 
shall be, will throw a gleam of light over my behavior 
throughout the foregoing incidents, and is, indeed, essen- 
tial to the full understanding of my story. The reader, 
therefore, since I have disclosed so much, is entitled to 
this one word more. As I write it, he will charitably 
suppose me to blush, and turn away my face : — 

I — I myself — was in love — with — Priscilla ! 



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Transcript. 



CHARLES SPRAGUE. 

THE POETICAL AND PROSE WRITINGS. A new and enlarged 
edition, revised by the author. This copy of Mr. Sprague's works is the only 
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GREENWOOD LEAVES. First and second Series. A Collection 
of Stories and Letters by Grace Greenwood. 2 vols. 12mo. $1.25 each. 
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have spoken widely. They are eminently characteristic ; they are strictly 
national ; they are likewise decisively individual. All true individuality is hon- 
estly social ; and, also, in Miss Clarke's writings nothing is sectional, and nothing 
sectarian. She is one of the spiritual products of the soil, which has, of late, 
given evidence of spiritual fertility ; and»she promises not to be the least healthy, 
as she is not the least choice, among them." — Henry Giles. 

HISTORY OF MY PETS. With fine Illustrations by Billings. 
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THE POETICAL WRITINGS OF GRACE GREENWOOD. 

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to place her in the very highest rank of American poets, both male and female. 
We allude to her 'Ariadne ' — a poem as rich in passionate expression and classic 
grace as any thing to be found in all Griswold's collection of American poetry."— 
N. Y. Mirror. 

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is only necessary to announce the appearance of this volume to secure for it nu- 
merous readers. It contains some of her most graceful and beautiful pieces, 
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subtilty of Steele, — the humor of Hawthorne presents traits so fine as to be 
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our analysis, — 

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« In his air 
Sat kingly sweetness, kind and calm command, 
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Of dust was on his garb and sandalled sole — 
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From his fair forehead, rippling down his neck — 
Bedropt, defiled with cold and cave-like dew. 
One hand a staff of virent emerald held 
As 'twere a sapling of the tree of life ; 
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Fluttering its wings in lightnings, thousand hued,— . 
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Silent he stood and gazed.' 

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9 



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